In 17 days, the Yankees will begin their inevitable march toward a 27th World Series championship. Meanwhile, they still have no set center fielder. With Grapefruit League action a-dwindlin’ in Tampa, it’s time to check in on everyone’s favorite positional battle.

We start with a Jayson Stark rumor:

GLOVE AFFAIR: The most-heard observation about the Yankees this spring: That team could have serious, and potentially fatal, defensive issues. They’re range-challenged in left, in right and at shortstop. (Ed. Note: That’s a shot at Jeter.) They have reliability issues at second. Alex Rodriguez is now a major question on every level. And nobody knows what kind of defensive catcher Jorge Posada is capable of being over the long haul. There are rumblings the Yankees are poking around again on Mike Cameron’s availability.

So basically, that paragraph boils down to blah, blah, blah, and oh, yeah, the Yanks are back on the Mike Cameron bandwagon. If Stark’s sources are telling the truth, I’m not really sure what the Yankees see in Cameron. He’s having a terrible spring for the Brewers; he’s old; and he’s not cheap. The Yanks have two center fielders in camp who could do the job, and while Cameron may still be a better defender than Melky Cabrera, Brett Gardner, a weaker hitter, is just as good, if not, better at getting to fly balls.

Cameron, a few months older than Johnny Damon, doesn’t fit the Yankees’ move toward younger, more versatile players either. Perhaps the Brewers are trying to stir up interest in a contractual albatross, but I just don’t see Cameron arriving in the Bronx any time soon. Meanwhile, the Brewers are denying any and all trade rumors, and this looks like a big nothing from Stark. Shocking, I know.

Back in Tampa, Bryan Hoch checked in with Melky Cabrera. The displaced starter now battling for his position feels as though he has a shot at the job, and Joe Girardi is conceding nothing. “This offseason, I worked really hard, so when the opportunity came, I’d be ready to play,” Cabrera said to Hoch. “I worked on defense and hitting and was working out every day. It’s helping a lot. I’m ready to go.”

For his part, with a few weeks of spring games left, Girardi is not giving the spot to either player. “Melky’s playing at a very high level, as well,” Girardi said. “I’m happy with the way Melky is playing. He’s really started swinging the bat, and you see him doing little things — bringing the defense in with drag attempts and shooting balls by them.”

For what it’s worth, Brett Gardner is far outhitting Melky in Spring Training. Cabrera is hitting a Melky-ian .250/.341/.361 through around 40 PAs, and Gardner is hitting .382./447/.765 in the same span.

The Yanks though are far from finished with the auditions. According to Hoch, the team likes Cabrera’s arm in center, and the decision may come down to defense, a factor that should favor Gardner’s speed and range. In the end, Hoch notes that the Yanks could carry both players, and considering that Melky is out of options, they very well might so as not to lose the youngster. I wouldn’t, however, pencil in anyone but Gardner for that Opening Day spot quite yet. Who emerges as the center fielder by game 100 is anyone’s guess.

Categories : Spring Training
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For the first time as a Yankee, AJ Burnett just didn’t have it tonight. Joe Inglett hit his first pitch of the game off the right-center field wall for a leadoff triple, the first extra base hit (and second hit period) Burnett’s allowed this spring. He worked around the trouble and escaped the first without allowing a run by getting Lyle Overbay to ground into an inning ending 4-6-3 double play with the bases juiced. There was a scary moment in the third (I think it was the third, anyway) when Burnett took a John McDonald line drive off the left tricep before catching a spike as he attempted to field the ball. Thankfully he was fine and pitched until he reached his limit, throwing just 33 of his 61 pitches for strikes as he battled his command. He walked three and only struck out one in 3.1 IP, but he did have a nice 7-2 GB/FB rate.

Brian Bruney replaced Burnett in the fourth, threw one of his warmup pitches to the backstop, then threw his first five pitches (all fastballs) out of the strike zone. Jorge Posada switched it up after that and starting calling for sliders, which Bruney was able to get over the plate, eventually inducing an inning ending 5-4-3 double play. Bruney loaded the bases in the fifth and allowed a two-run double to ex-Scranton Yank Jason Lane before giving way to Steven Jackson, who wiggled out of the inning on just one pitch.

Mariano Rivera threw the next inning, and I have to be honest, I didn’t catch him in action because I was watching The Office. Judging by his 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K line, I’d say things went pretty well. Edwar Ramirez followed him with a scoreless inning, and Danny Giese picked up the save with two innings of one run ball.

Offensively, the heavy lifting was done by Jorge Posada, Nick Swisher, and Hideki Matsui. Posada scored a pair of runs and drove in another thanks to a 1-for-3 effort, but more importantly things went just fine for him behind the plate once again. Swisher went 2-for-2, pulling a run scoring double down the left field line after fouling off at least four pitches in a 1-2 count in his second plate appearance. Matsui drove in a run with a shot into the opposite field gap, but was thrown out trying to stretch the hit into a double. He smiled as he jogged off the field, and indication that his knees are fine. Austin Jackson went 1-for-1 with a walk off the bench, and Eduardo Nunez hit a two-run homer off former Yankee draft pick David Purcey in the eighth to put the game out of reach. The Yanks won 7-4, and are riding a seven game winning streak.

Phil Hughes will take on the Twins in Fort Myers tomorrow afternoon while Andy Pettitte pitches against a squad of minor leaguers in Tampa. Mark Teixeira, Brett Gardner, Robbie Cano, and Matsui will be joining Hughes on the two hour bus trip. Swisher was scheduled to join them, but he’ll be held back after fouling a ball of his left calf and suffering a bruise, which he’s not too happy about.

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  • Rooting with a purpose

    Here’s a fun one to while away the last two innings of this excruciating compelling Spring Training match-up between the Yanks and Blue Jays: Earlier today, Pete Abe wrote a short post on rooting for a player because of a shared characteristic. In the 1930s and 1940s, for example, my grandparents and a lot of their fellow New Yorkers rooted for Hank Greenberg because he’s Jewish. I’m pulling for the Pirates’ Pedro Alvarez because he and I went to the same high school, he graduated with my sister and I played baseball with him for a day when he was 14 and I was 18. So RAB readers: Which players do you root for because of some random connection? Spill the beans. · (105) ·

AJ Burnett pitching in STLooking to improve upon his stellar spring (6 IP, 1 baserunner), AJ Burnett will face his most recent former team tonight, the Toronto Blue Jays. Well, at least a bunch of guys wearing the Jays uni anyway. Only three players off the Jays projected starting nine made the trip to Tampa, the best of the bunch being second baseman Aaron Hill. The opposing starter will be Casey Janssen, who missed all of 2008 due to a torn labrum.

Following Burnett will be Mariano Rivera, who’s going to make his second appearance of the spring. Based on his last outing, Mo’s already in midseason form. Jorge Posada will make his third appearance behind the plate tonight and will probably catch five or six innings. Here’s the rest of the starting nine:

Posada, C
Damon, LF
Swisher, 1B
Matsui, DH
Nady, RF
Ransom, 3B
Melky, CF
Berroa, SS
Pena, 2B

Scheduled Pitchers: AJ Burnett, Mariano Rivera, Edwar Ramirez, Dan Giese, Brian Bruney

YES will have the action, first pitch is at 7:15.

Photo Credit: Kathy Willens, AP

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  • BtB’s optimized Yanks lineup

    Sky Kalkman was a big contributor to the thread about an optimized Yankees lineup yesterday. Over at his home site today he breaks things down himself. We match up with Jeter and Teixeira hitting 1-2, but he plugs in Nick Swisher No. 3, where I had Johnny Damon. From there it’s A-Rod, Matsui, Posada, Damon, Cano, and Gardner. I’m not a lefty-righty-lefty-righty junkie, but three lefties in a row is not something you’ll see in many major league lineups. Still, it’s a neat exercise in re-thinking the traditional roles in the batting order. Hey, at least he’s not suggesting something crazy like Matsui hitting leadoff… · (5) ·

We’ve got new Yankee Stadium on the mind this week. After looking at the parks issue earlier today, I came across another bit on the current retro trend in stadium design. This piece — on Fast Company via Shysterball — takes a more “old is old, new is new” approach to the new digs in New York.

While The New Yorker’s architectural critic likes the new stadium, Fast Company’s Zachary Wilson is underwhelmed. He writes:

Baseball fans are loyal not just to their teams, but also to the history of the game. Ever since Camden Yards opened in Baltimore in 1992, new stadiums have chased nostalgia. “Teams want to rebirth themselves into who they were in the first era of baseball,” says HOK Sport senior principal Earl Santee. “People want to see a traditional sport like baseball played in a traditional building.” So the Yankees’ new $1.3 billion park echoes their original 1923 one, with the same vaulted arches and stone facade. The main entry is still at Gate 4, guarded by golden eagles, and the seats are the same blue.

For the price, the Yankees didn’t make much architectural progress, but that’s not what they intended. “U.S. clients are more conservative, especially in the baseball industry. Architects get roped into doing retro ballparks over and over,” says Manica Architecture principal David Manica, who is designing stadiums in China and Belarus. “We’re trying to push clients in the U.S. to think in a different way, but international clients are just more open to experimenting.” For example, Manica has a project in Guangzhou, China, that will look like a spaceship, while HOK Sport’s Nanjing Olympic Sports Centre, also in China, has huge, glowing red arches that show the firm’s daring side…

The focus on nonbaseball elements foreshadows a more multidimensional future for stadiums. Until now, they’ve been mostly single-use venues plopped on a plot of land with little regard for the surroundings. Fans came, they saw, they left. But the stadium of the future must be — and do — much more. “These very expensive facilities just cannot sit empty for days and days,” says Steve Burrows, director of the London-based venue-design firm Arup Sport. “You need to build some retail and commercial to give the stadium life every day. When it works, it’s like a magnet.”

Wilson ends in calling both CitiField and new Yankee Stadium “bold, costly and disappointingly retro.” What though is the alternative?

The Yankees were replacing a historic building and opted for a new take on the old façade. The Mets were replacing a dump and are opening a modernized stadium evoking Ebbets Field. Perhaps these buildings aren’t as crazy as the Water Cube in Beijing, but are they really supposed to be?

CitiField and Yankee Stadium are baseball stadiums designed to bring modern amenities in a setting that relates back to the rich and stories history of baseball in New York. Maybe, as Craig at Shysterball writes, architects should think about instilling a modern sensibility into new stadium design, but there’s nothing wrong with tipping the past at the same time.

Categories : Yankee Stadium
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You know what’s a great complement to the NCAA Tournament? Yep, the RAB Radio Show. Watch your favorite teams on TV while listening to your favorite radio hosts on your computer. Ok, done with the cheezy intro.

As we get closer to the season, there will be a lot more to talk about. The show goes a bit long today, with Mike and I just talking some baseball for a bit. We do discuss the Yanks, particularly the pitching staff. We’re pleased with what we’ve seen.

One question we kick around: With Angel Berroa likely to make the roster as a utility infielder and with Brett Tomko looking like the best long man candidate at this point, who do the Yanks remove from the 40-man to clear the space? Our difficulty in answering this question, I think, signals that the Yanks will add only one to the 40-man this spring. Giese is the likely casualty.

Also, I’m going to take this opportunity to pimp our feeds. You can follow us on Twitter, which is always fun. You can also subscribe to our RSS feed, which brings delivers posts instantly to any RSS reader. If you have any questions about RSS, email me. I’m putting together a comprehensive resource for those interested. Finally, you can friend us on Facebook. We promise, we’ll be more active there this season.

Onto the podcast. It is available in a number of formats. You can download it here by right clicking on that link and selecting Save As. If you want to play it in your browser, just left click the link. You can also subscribe to the podcast feed, which will send it to you every Thursday. You can also subscribe in iTunes. Finally, we have the embedded audio player below.

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Categories : Podcast
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As the Yanks have constructed a $2 billion behemoth on the northwest corner of River Ave. and 161st St., the team has faced off with Bronx community activists unhappy with the way the team displaced valuable parkland and hasn’t delivered on the promise of jobs. Now, the Yankees are extending something of an olive branch to their Yankee-loving neighbors.

The Yankees will be opening up the gates of new Yankee Stadium on Thursday, April 2 for Bronx residents. The team will distribute 15,000 free tickets to Bronx community boards, Bronx-based community organizations and union workers who helped construct the new stadium. The 12 community boards will each get 1000 tickets to distribute to residents.

Beyond that, I don’t know how distribution will work, but I’d pay for one of those tickets. I’m just putting that out there for our Bronx-based readers. Contact info for the Bronx community boards can be found here.

Meanwhile, the Yanks and borough activists are still sparring over the lack of replacement parks. NY1 News’ Shazia Khan reports that the various rooftop parks that will cover the new parking lots surrounding Yankee Stadium won’t be completed until 2010. She also has news on the fate of old Yankee Stadium:

The old Yankee Stadium will be transformed into Heritage Field Park. Demolition is slated to start next month and construction of the park is expected to be completed by spring 2011.

Critics, however, say that’s not soon enough.

“It’s completely outrageous that elected officials and this administration have allowed this Yankee Stadium to still stand,” said New York City Park Advocates President Geoffrey Croft. “The New York Mets, the day after demolition, started taking down their field. This community deserves much better than that and this community is desperate for recreation.”

At some point in the next two years, the Bronx will have its parks and numerous trees to replace what once was lost. I don’t, however, blame the community and park activists for feeling slighted. Shea Stadium was recently turned into a parking lot in short order. The city could have made an effort to do the same with Yankee Stadium.

Categories : Yankee Stadium
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RAB Bracket Busters

By in Not Baseball. · Comments (27) ·

The NCAA Tournament kicks off this afternoon, and I started a Tournament Challenge group at Yahoo that you can join. There aren’t any prizes, just bragging rights, but you’ll get to pick your brackets and have fun following along. The scoring doubles each round, from one point in the first round to two points in the second to four in the fourth, and so on. If you want in, go here and click “Join A Group.”

League ID#: 187724
Password: hiphipjorge (not sure if it’s case sensitive)

There’s a limit of 500 people in the group, so first come first serve. The games start in like, an hour, so get to filling your brackets out. Oh, and if you have anything you want us to answer in today’s podcast, email it to either Joe or myself using the links on the right.

Categories : Not Baseball
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