It’s been said before, and it will be said many times in the future: Alex Rodriguez is a polarizing figure. Some look at his production and let the conversation end there. Others look to his numerous (to be generous) quirks and his recent history of poor Octobers, and decide they don’t like him. Whether the fans like him or not, he’s under contract with the team for the next nine seasons, so it’s advisable to get used to his antics. The Yanks already have.

That’s the subject of Buster Olney’s column for today, and it’s quite amusing:

The rest of the world might ask: Why has A-Rod befriended Madonna? Inside the Yankees’ family, the response is That’s Alex.

The rest of the world might ask: Why would A-Rod host a press conference about his past steroid use and create more questions than he answers? Inside the Yankees’ family, the response is That’s Alex.

And today, the rest of the world might ask: Why would A-Rod pose for a picture in which he appears to be kissing himself in a mirror? Inside the Yankees’ family, the response is That’s Alex.

“Don’t worry, we’ll be sure to make fun of him for it,” one teammate told Kat O’Brien.

Fans, of course, will do what they please. Many feel a sense of entitlement, in that they spend so much time and money on the team that they have the right to boo whomever they please. I won’t argue with that, though I don’t agree with it. I root for the laundry, and even though I’ve disliked Yankee players in the past I’ve refrained from booing. Why would I boo someone I want to succeed?

Still, this seems like the best mindset at this point. Let Alex be Alex. As long as he produces on the field, nothing else matters in my mind.

Categories : Players
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  • Interviewing the Rocket reporter
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    On Friday, we were completely unsurprised when the news “broke” that Brian Cashman knew about Jason Giambi’s steroid use. This story came out in Jeff Pearlman’s latest book on Roger Clemens, the Yankees and PED, and it constitutes as obvious a “duh” moment as one could imagine. Despite that, Pearlman has done a thorough job putting this sordid tale together, and he recently answered 20 questions from Jason at IIATMS. Pearlman takes about Clemens, Pettitte, the work behind the book and PED use today. Check it out. · (6) ·

Yesterday afternoon, my flight back north from West Palm Beach went north up the Hudson River past all of New York City. After spying Coney Island out the window, I followed the city north through Brooklyn (where I could spot my own block) and north up Manhattan. So many familiar landmarks flashed by underneath, and as we approached the Bronx, two Yankee Stadiums caught my eye.

While one of those stadiums is slowly and sadly being dismantled, the other is approaching is big debut. Already, reviews are trickling out from the Bronx. While it’s really impossible to pass judgment on a baseball stadium until games are being played and fans can review the whole experience, architectural critics are having their say.

First up in what promises to be a never-ending stream of stories critiquing and praising the city’s two new stadiums is Paul Goldberger’s take in this week’s New Yorker. He likes it, especially when compared with the oddly fake-looking Citi Field in Queens. Goldberger writes:

The new stadium feels more tightly woven into the fabric of the city than the old one did. (It will feel even more so once a Metro-North station opens there, later this year, and once the city finally makes good on its obligation to replace the Macombs Dam Park facilities lost in construction of the new stadium with parkland on and around the site of the previous one.) If you approach it by driving along Jerome Avenue, you see a couple of the Bronx’s finest Art Deco apartment houses across the street from the west façade, and you get a hint of the subtle counterpoint that once existed between a baseball park and an urban setting. The stadium is bigger and more imposing than everything around it, of course, but it seems to grow out of its surroundings, and this somehow rescues the building from its own pomposity. In a way, the apartment houses on Jerome Avenue, the jumble of storefronts and bars under the elevated tracks on River Avenue, and the constant presence of street life shape the stadium as much as its designers have.

At Citi Field, conversely, the Ebbets Field façade, stuck in the middle of acres of parking (as Shea was), seems more like a theme park than it would if it were in the middle of the city. HOK has tried to make the stadium feel more urban by placing a long brick building, containing the Mets’ offices, just beyond right field, along 126th Street, where it faces a favela of auto-body shops in Willets Point. But, since the site is defined mainly by expressways and parking lots, the architects are fighting a losing battle. It’s a pity that the Mets didn’t build on the far West Side of Manhattan, where Colonel Ruppert first thought of putting Yankee Stadium, ninety years ago, and where the Jets recently tried to build a football stadium. A football stadium doesn’t need to be in the middle of a city, but a baseball park, smaller and used much more often, does.

A stadium is a stage set as sure as anything on Broadway, and it determines the tone of the dramas within. Citi Field suggests a team that wants to be liked, even to the point of claiming some history that isn’t its own. Yankee Stadium, however, reflects an organization that is in the business of being admired, and is built to serve as a backdrop for the image of the Yankees, at once connected to the city and rising grandly above it.

I am predisposed to both hate and like the new Yankee Stadium. I hate it because it’s replacing something that never needed to be replaced. I like it because I can appreciate the grandiosity of the whole park. This new garish Yankee Stadium is Yankee decadence in 2009 when no one else can or will spend what the Yanks have spent.

After spying a completed Citi Field for the first time from Laguardia last Friday, I can echo Goldberger’s thoughts. From the outside at least, Yankee Stadium looks like it belongs. Citi Field, on the other hand, looks like Any New Ballpark, USA. I’ve seen Citi Field in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, in Detroit and Atlanta. It may evoke Ebbets Field if you look at it from the front, but from any other angle, nothing screams unique New York.

When Yankee Stadium — the real old Yankee Stadium — meets its end in a few months or a year, a part of New York City history will join old Penn Station in the great pantheon of landmarks in memory. The new stadium won’t replace the old one in our hearts. If the early word is to be trusted, it will, however, be a sight unto itself.

Categories : Yankee Stadium
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The Great Sabathia Crisis lasted all of one start, because the big fella was straight nasty tonight. Four innings, one hit, one walk, seven strikeouts. The other five outs he recorded all came on groundballs. The one hit was an infield single off the bat of Jose Tabata that hit the third base bag and popped fifteen feet in air, eliminating any chance of Cody Ransom making a play on it. Sabathia threw 59 pitches, 40 for strikes. I know he was facing half of an NL lineup, but great googley moogley. That was awesome.

As great as CC was, Mariano Rivera was better. Making his first appearance of the spring, Mo struck out the first batter he faced on three pitches. He then induced a weak grounder back that he fielded himself for the second out, and struck out the third batter for crisp 1-2-3 frame that took all of eleven pitches (eight strikes). I know there’s some concern about the 39-yr old Rivera after offseason shoulder surgery, but considering how ridiculously awesome he was last year with the shoulder issue, isn’t there a chance he’ll be even better this year?

Hideki Matsui kicked off the scoring with a two-run double down the line in the first, and he followed that up with a monster homer in the third that was just a few rows shorts of leaving Steinbrenner Field all together. All in all, the Yanks sent eleven runners to the plate in the third, scoring six runs thanks to the Matsui homer and doubles by Mark Teixeira, X(BH) Nady, and Melky Cabrera, plus a two-run base hit by Jorge Posada, who caught five innings with no problems. His arm was tested in the second when ex-Yankees farmhand Jose Tabata stole third; the throw was high and off line, but the pitch was down and a tough one to handle. Most importantly, Posada was fine and had a look of relief on his face after letting one loose for the first time post-surgery.

Edwar Ramirez and Al Aceves finished the game off between rain drops with four combined innings of one run ball; the run coming on a Jeff Salazar solo homer to lead off the ninth. Yankee pitchers struck out twelve Pirates and had a 13-2 GB/FB ratio in the 9-2 win. Pretty good night, I’d say.

Elsewhere in the baseball world, Team USA kept their WBC dream alive thanks to a David Wright walk-off knock. Ya gotta believe.

Categories : Game Stories
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CC chillaxin'This is the moment we’ve all been waiting for, ever since we learned that CC Sabathia had agreed to join the Yanks back on Decemember 10th. Tonight, we’ll get to see him pitch in a Yankees’ uniform. It’s a St. Patrick’s Day Miracle.

Bryan Hoch says that Sabathia will go one and a third CC innings (four innings for a regular pitcher), and will be followed by Mo making his spring debut in the 5th. Jorge Posada will catch the first five frames. Here’s the rest of the boys:

Posada, C
Damon, LF
Teixeira, 1B
Matsui, LF
Nady, RF
Melky, CF
Ransom, 3B
Pena, 2B
Nunez, SS

Scheduled Pitchers: CC Sabathia, Mariano Rivera, Al Aceves, Edwar Ramirez

Some kid named Tabata is playing right and batting fifth for the Buccos. YES will have the action with first pitch set for 7:15. Enjoy the game.

Oh, and here’s your last reminder to vote in this week’s Fan Confidence Poll if you haven’t already. Thanks.

Photo Credit: Reuters Pictures

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First stages of Stadium deconstruction. Credit: Tom Kaminski, WCBS

Sooner or later, they’re going to have to tear down Yankee Stadium (which, as long-time readers know, will not be done by us). It appears the process has already started. Via Bryan Hoch, we get some some overhead photos from WCBS 880’s Tom Kaminski detailing the first stages. Check out the wide view, one from a north east perspective, and a close-up of the now-dirt outfield. While I’m excited to see the team in the new Stadium, it is still sad to see the old one dismantled.

Categories : Yankee Stadium
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The Yanks batting order kind of writes itself, right? The top four guys are basically set in stone, there’s an obvious spot at the bottom of the order for Gardner or Cabrera, and the five through eight spots can be filled capably in almost any order. So why am I revisiting the topic? Because I love reading Beyond the Boxscore, and Sky Kalkman wrote a post today about lineup arrangement. It’s based on The Book, which is next on my stack of books (after I finish The Fielding Bible Volume II). Sky walks through the reasoning behind the importance of each batting order spot, and concludes with the order of on-base importance. We’ll jump to that part, and then get into what this means for a potential Yanks lineup.

As an exercise in the ability to not make an out, this is the order of lineup spot importance: #1, #4, #2, #5, #3, #6, #7, #8, #9. Power changes things around here — for instance, A-Rod is the best OBP guy on the team, but he’s not going to hit leadoff because he has a ton of pop. That means he’s best suited for the fourth slot. Make sure to click over and read Sky’s rationale for each position. Things might make a bit more sense after doing so.

With all this in mind, here’s how I would arrange the Yanks:

1. Derek Jeter
2. Mark Teixeira
3. Johnny Damon
4. Alex Rodriguez
5. Hideki Matsui
6. Jorge Posada
7. Nick Swisher
8. Robinson Cano
9. Brett Gardner

If Xavier Nady wins the right field job, I’d just as easily slot him into the seven spot. Ditto Cabrera and the CF job/ninth spot.

This actually isn’t that absurd when you think about it for a bit. Plenty of fans want to see Derek Jeter bat leadoff because he’s well-suited for the job. He gets on base at a good clip and doesn’t hit for much power these days. In fact, Damon hits for considerably more power, so Derek is arguably the best candidate for leadoff hitter on the team. Since this is an idealistic scenario and not based on the reality of the club, it was a no-brainer to hit him there.

One strange aspect you might see is Mark Teixeira hitting second. As Sky notes, “the #2 hitter comes to bat in situations about as important as the #3 hitter, but more often.” So you want your #2 hitter to be better than your #3, since he will see more at bats, even if it’s just a few more per season. Teixeira is the Yanks second best hitter. He has power, which keeps him out of the leadoff role, but not as much as A-Rod, which keeps him from the fourth slot. The next best place for him, then is the #2 hole.

Having Johnny Damon hit near the top of the order is an advantage. He consistently has an above average OBP, has some speed on the basepaths, and has gap power. As a lefty at Yankee Stadium, he can also knock some balls out of the park. Under these guidelines he seems like the ideal #3 hitter — good average, good OBP, decent power, not one of the top three hitters on the team.

As for #5, I had a bit of trouble picking someone for here. As Sky notes, the old-school thought is that this is your second-best power hitter. However, that’s not exactly the case. Because of the guys hitting ahead of him, he can be valuable with all sorts of hits. So you want a high-average type player. That’s Matsui, who hasn’t hit below .285 in his six big league seasons. he has decent power, though we saw that come down a tick last year. Still, if he can manage a full season of his 2008 line — .294/.370/.424 — I don’t think any manager in the game would hesitate to hit him fifth.

The only notable changes to the probably lineup are in the top three spots. When the Yanks open on April 6 the order will almost certainly go Damon, Jeter, then Tex. Does that make a huge difference? I don’t know. Intuitively, I don’t think it makes much, if any difference in how the team scores its runs. Maybe Jeter hits into fewer double plays out of the leadoff spot and that creates a few runs for the Yanks. Maybe Johnny hits his home runs with a few more guys on base. Maybe Teixeira is in a greater position to score runs out of the #2 spot than the #3. I think that more than anything, this shows how blessed the Yanks are at the top of the order.

Categories : Analysis
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  • Project Prospects’ Top 200 Prospects List
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    Never one to conform to the traditional measuress of top 10’s, top 30’s or top 100’s, Project Prospect posted their gigantic list of the top 200 prospects in the game today. The list is headed by the usual suspects (Wieters, then Price) and is full of familiar names up top, guys like Colby Rasmus, Madison Bumgarner and Jason Heyward. Seven Yankees’ farmhands made the list: Jesus Montero (#37), Austin Jackson (52), Dellin Betances (71), Zach McAllister (110), Brett Gardner (115), Jairo Heredia (169), and Austin Romine (196). So Andrew Brackman isn’t one of the 200 best prospects in the game but Chris Withrow is? Really? · (55) ·

Igawa in Spring TrainingWith a team like the Yankees, there really aren’t many questions that need answering in Spring Training each year. We know who’s going to play on the infield every day for the next two years, and 80% of the rotation is locked up for the foreseeable future as well. Sorting out the last bullpen spot and maybe center field just isn’t all that exciting.

Thankfully, there’s always Triple-A. The organization is blessed with Major League ready pitching depth at the minor’s uppermost level, and they sport position players cut from every kind of cloth imaginable. Very few of these players are guaranteed full time jobs with Scranton, and the rest of the bunch are is just doing their best to secure a job beyond the end of camp.

As Spring Training roars past it’s midpoint, we can start to get a sense of who fits where in the Triple-A picture. Some guys have been locked into jobs since November, others have taken advantage of their opportunity and are beginning to run away from the competition, while other players haven’t done much of anything to help their cause. There are still enough question marks that it’s worth breaking down the roster position by position, and try to figure out who fits where.

Much like everything else he does, I like the way Jason Churchill presented his Triple-A Tacoma projection over at his awesome site Prospect Insider, so excuse me while I bite his style. The good stuff is after the jump.

Read More→

Categories : Minors
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  • RAB Alternate Fantasy Baseball League
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    As I’m sure you can imagine, when I filled the inaugural RAB Fantasy Baseball League last week there were plenty of people who got left in the dark because they just didn’t send the email in time. Well, those people didn’t take no for an answer and instead formed a second league, affectionately dubbed the RAB Alternate League. This new bastard league has some openings available (three to be exact), so if you still want in just send me an email at the address on the right.

    The league settings are the same as the original league (you can see them here), and the draft is scheduled for this coming Sunday (the 22nd) at 6:15pm. Remember, it’s a crazy deep twenty team keeper league, so please only email if you’re serious about playing. I’m not managing the league, but it’s in very capable hands, and of course it’s 100% free. Thanks in advance.

    Update (11:10am): The Alternate League is full. Thanks again everyone.
    · (6) ·