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Home of the Jets
October 31, 2010

Saturday, February 4, 2012


Anytime the Yankees make a big move one guy never gets the credit he deserves. Due to a high payroll the Yanks apparently have no front office. Instead, they have guys hanging at an auction yard waiting for big money items to be up for sale. This is how they are viewed. But trades and waiver moves require experience, intelligence, and maybe a tad of recklessness.

Look at the trade the Yanks made last month. They sent Jesus Montero to Seattle for Michael Pineda. Montero has been the most prized gem the Yanks have had from their farm system the last several years. He was going into his first full season as an everyday player. Just as Montero player T-shirts were going to be the new “have to have it” item, Brian Cashman pulls the trigger on his biggest trade in nine years. That was when he sent another young hot shot in Alfonso Soriano to Texas for Alex Rodriguez. Since then it is clear the Yanks got the better of the two. A-Rod has won a pair of MVP awards and led the Yanks to a World Series title in ’09. Soriano used to hit 40 bombs and swipe 40 bags a year. The guy has not done the same 20/20 the last five years. It’s easy to look back at who won in that trade. This latest one, however, we have to wait and see.

Last season Pineda and Sabathia ranked 2nd and 6th in strikeouts per nine innings, respectively in the American League. This season they will be in the same rotation. Montero marveled in his call-up last season as well as in October. He batted .328 with four homers and 12 RBI in 18 games during the regular season. Then was a perfect 2-2 in the playoffs. His upside is unlimited. Some think he can be like Victor Martinez but I think he will be better. Seattle needs offense bad. They used to be one of the most feared lineups in all of baseball. Before this trade they were baseball’s most inept offensive team. They may still be. Montero should bat over .300, hit more than 30 home runs and get close to 100 RBI. While doing this he will run away with the Rookie of the Year award. Cashman will look bad if this happens. You need to realize, though, Montero would be batting fifth or maybe even sixth if he did not get traded. Why not trade him for one of the game’s top young pitchers?

Cashman is no stranger to trading away young talent. Look at two years prior when he was ready to trade Montero to Seattle for Cliff Lee. One of his first moves after taking over as the Yankee General Manager came when he traded for Chuck Knoblauch in February 1998. He sent Minnesota four prospects including future star favorite Eric Milton. Looking back at that one and Cashman looks like a genius. Milton retired after the 1999 season and won less than 90 games in his career. Knoblauch was part of the Yanks’ most clutch infield during their three-peat. During that stretch he helped with clutch hits and strong defense. He would leave in time for Soriano to take over.

After the 1998 season Cashman pulled the trigger on another big trade. That was when he traded Homer Bush, Graeme Lloyd, and David Wells to Toronto for Roger Clemens. Even though the Yanks got the better end of the deal it was tough letting go of Boomer. The guy had pitched a perfect game the previous season. He was a guy’s guy. He bought one of Babe Ruth’s game-worn hats then wore it during a game. He had to remove it when the umpires realized the ‘NY’ was not much bigger than a silver dollar. We would see him again in pinstripes a few years later so we don’t look at the trade as anything but a slam dunk. Heck, I remember sitting in English class when Corey Shook came running in saying the Yanks traded for Clemens. It was definitely a “Where were you when…” moment. This was years before the steroid accusations would forever crush any legacy Clemens was building at the time. Still, the Rocket had plenty left in the tank. He helped the Yanks win two World Championships before capturing his 6th Cy Young award in 2001.
During the 2000 season Cashman traded three more prospects to Cleveland for David Justice. Included with the prospects were Ricky LeDee and Zach Day. Many say the Yanks would not have even made it to the World Series had they not made this trade. Cashman acquiring Justice made the aging slugger attractive to other teams after the ’01 season. Billy Beane trading for him prior to the ’02 season is a good chunk in the Oscar-nominated Moneyball. Beane would not get the same value Cashman did though. Sometimes the best trades are ones you don’t make. The Yanks came so close to trading Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain to Minnesota for Johan Santana during the ’07 season. But Cashman kept his chips at the table. He knows when to hold them and when to fold them. Hughes and Chamberlain have both been inconsistent since. Santana had some success with the Mets but has been on the DL far too much.

Before the ’09 season, Cashman made another good trade when he sent Wilson Betemit to the White Sox for Nick Swisher. Even though Swisher is an up and down player his addition to the clubhouse and intangibles prove invaluable to the Yanks. Sneaky skillful moves such as this are what make Cashman stand alone as one of the best GM’s in sports. Don’t get me wrong. There is not much skill involved when you can go out and sign Sabathia, AJ Burnett, and Mark Teixeira. But if you really look at all of the guys the Yanks have added since Cashman has been there, some of the best moves were via trades.

People always like to say stuff like “The Yankees buy Championships.” The players they get still need to make good pitches and get big hits in clutch spots for championships to be won. The next time someone says that talk about the trades. Maybe 10 years from now we will be asking ourselves, “Where were you when the Yanks got Pineda?”

Fan Cave Application

Eighteen years after my father watched Bucky Dent go over the wall, I sat beside him as Jim Leyritz turned around the 1996 World Series. Sentimental moments such as this separate me from other Yankee fans. Please allow me to elaborate as to why I belong in the 2012 MLB Fan Cave.
 My idea of a good time is comparing Hall of Famers’ stats to those of Thurman Munson and Don Mattingly. Then I sit in amazement about how two guys considered to be the best player in baseball at different times will never be enshrined. What really makes me angry is how Derek Jeter didn’t win the AL MVP in 2006. Baseball writers portray the Yankees as corporate juggernauts who deserve to lose. They try every chance they can not to vote for the boys in pinstripes come award time. And more importantly, the same can be said when it comes to voting guys into the Hall of Fame. This social network, if you will, needs a fair voice. My voice is one that usually sits high above the bleacher creatures. But I’m usually watching at home in front of a Toshiba 40-inch HDTV. Sometimes I get stuck listening to the radio during another predictable day in corporate America. If I’m on a dinner date my seat is facing the television and you better believe the Yanks are on that screen. Heck, I was seeing Couples Retreat the night of 2009 ALDS Game Two when A-Rod finally came through. Always a defender of No. 13, my cell went off like a slot machine. I announced to a packed theatre the Yanks were going to win it all. When the Yanks are on the west coast I stay up as late as I can and get nervous to check the box score after my alarm wakes me. If they win, my day is off to a great start. If they lose, I know why. It is because I was not watching.
By being in the Fan Cave this season, I look forward to seeing every pitch of every game the Yankees play. While I am watching my team, my eyes will be gazing all over every other game. I will be watching when no name fantasy studs are born. I’ll also be watching when a contender becomes a pretender. The first season in which there will be a second wild card in each league is on its way. Pennant and wild card races will be like none we ever saw before. I remember being a fan of terrible Yankee fans pre-strike. Since then, however, my team has missed the playoffs only once and won five World Series titles. I cringe when customers come into my office with a Yankee hat and don’t know whether or not we won the night before. You’re either a fan or you’re an obsessed lunatic who belongs with the other crazies. Just please put me where I belong this season. 
As I look forward to another promising season, three headlines keep racing through my mind.
Even though they were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs, the Yankees made a huge move last October. This was when Joe Girardi batted Robinson Cano third. Moving Cano up in the lineup instantly improved the Yanks’ offense. The last two seasons Cano finished sixth and third in the AL MVP voting. He had 118 RBI batting fifth through most of the 2010 and 2011 seasons. Now that he will be batting third, his RBI total should be north of 130 and home runs higher than 30. As long as his average is the usual, the 2012 AL MVP is Cano’s to win. This guy has the sweetest swing in the game and the best since Ken Grifey, Jr. He will not turn 30 until October and the sky continues to be the limit for baseball’s best second baseman. He wears No. 24 as a reversal of Jackie Robinson’s retired No. 42, whom Cano was named after. Cano should run away with his first MVP award but it will be far from the biggest headline coming from the Fan Cave this season.
Ryan Braun appeared to be one of the good guys. A three tool player was the obvious choice for the NL MVP last season. Some felt Matt Kemp was more deserving. However, he was playing for a team headed for bankruptcy. Braun, on the other hand, was playing for a team headed for the postseason. Then moments happen that show another side of the game. Dark moments like the Black Sox or Pete Rose betting on baseball. Since those moments sure thing first ballot Hall entries have tested positive for steroids. Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, and Alex Rodriguez are few among the many. Add Ryan Braun to the list. He will begin the 2012 season on a 50-game suspension for testing positive with a PED. The testosterone levels were the highest in Braun than any previous player testing positive. This means that while Braun denies this, he may be the guiltiest of all time. He will forever be tainted as a guy who cheated. Brewer fans will have to defend their beloved franchise player the rest of his career. That’s the part with steroids in baseball that always seems to be forgotten. The fans that cheer for players who become known users get cheated.  
Last season Derek Jeter reached 3,000 hits. Another season means another hope one of the most precious records in sports get broken. In 1941 Joe DiMaggio hit safely in 56 consecutive games. The single season home run record, while tainted, took 37 years to fall from 1961 to 1998. As we approach the 61st season since Joe D did the unthinkable you can’t help but dream even his untouchable feat gets beat. Think about it. Sixty-one years have passed since 1941. Once another untouchable number, 61 used to stand alone. Fifty-six still stands alone but will it last forever?

Sunday, January 29, 2012

True Two

Everyone remembers their first game. Mine was a Saturday afternoon in July. The year was 1996 and the New York Yankees were in first place. It was Old Timers' Day in the Bronx and I was next to my Dad.

Seeing the greatest Yankees getting introduced was amazing. Joe DiMaggio was there to throw out the first pitch. Reggie Jackson hit a home run in the Old Timers' game. And there were two future Hall of Famers in uniform for the current Yankees that day. Derek Jeter was more than halfway through a season that would win him Rookie of the Year honors. Maybe everyone expected great things from the No. 2 overall pick four years prior. But out in the bullpen was a lanky young reliever named Mariano Rivera.

Almost fifteen years have passed since my first game. I have been to dozens more and the Yankees have been dominant. Perhaps the two biggest reasons have been Jeter and Rivera.

Everyone started bringing up this "Core Four" in '09. Andy Pettitte left for the Houston Astros after '03. Some say if he was there in '04 the Yanks don't collapse against Boston. As much as I love Pettitte as a fan, he brought back negative press and a steroid admittance. Jorge Posada, meanwhile, has been the epitome of a compiler from the day he got here. Think of the big hits throughout his career. Try to get to your thumb. It's not happening.

Jeter is starting to show his age. If anyone deserves a pass, though, it is the Captain. Sixteen hits is all that separates Jeter from 3,000 hits. No Yankee has ever achieved the feat. By the time his career ends, Jeter will be in the top 10 of career hits leaders. Of course this means an automatic entrance into Cooperstown. But Jeter has had a career full of memorable moments.

The first game I went to this season me and my brother were talking about Jeter in '06. Ten years after winning ROY honors, Jeter had his best season. Somehow Justin Morneau won the American League MVP. He was given 15 first-place votes while Jeter got 12. It just seemed Jeter carried the Yankees that season. When the playoffs began Jeter stayed hot. He was already 4-4 in game one against the Tigers in the eigth inning. There were deafening "MVP!MVP!MVP!" chants in the old Stadium. The new Stadium has never felt like the old one. This moment was the perfect example with Jeter in the batters box with one out. Then Jeter hit a bomb to dead center almost hitting the black seats. 5-5! Moments like this are why Jeter is not just another guy with 3,000 hits.

If Jeter is the Captain, Rivera might as well be the Pope. Since '96, Mo has earned the reputation as the greatest closer of all time. He has 573 career saves, just 28 shy of Trevor Hoffman's 601. Life after Rivera is starting to become a reality as every Yankee fan can see the writings on the wall.

Posada should be retiring soon. The Captain only has a few more years left. Rivera has to be close to the end, right? He has had some rocky moments this season but remains a force in all the land. As long as Rivera is the Yankees' closer they have an advantage nobody else does. Every closer in the league throughout Rivera's career has been better known for the times he choked than when he succeeded. Not Rivera.

If you want to feel the closest thing to the force Rivera possesses it is quite simple. Go to Yankee Stadium and hope he comes in the game. "Enter Sandman" starts playing almost as a cue for the game ending even though Rivera has not thrown a pitch yet. The only thing remotely close to this feeling was Hulk Hogan's entrance at Madison Square Garden during WWF's heyday. Rivera's entrance was a better feeling in the old Stadium though. The bigger, more spacious new Stadium has sent the real fans to the land of "Far Far Away." We are still screaming but too much distance and empty seats separates us from the field. You'll get goosebumps, though, and be able to tell all your friends you saw greatness. The best closer ever.

The Captain and the "Pope" are still playing for the Yankees. This may be the twilight parts of their careers but the Yanks are still in first place with the "True Two" there through it all since 1995. There when it started. There when it will end. The world can't end as long as Jeter and Mo are on the Yanks.

As for my first game. The Yanks beat the Royals 5-4. Jeter was 2-4 with a run scored. Rivera pitched two innings where he struck out two, walked three, and gave up one hit while picking up his 20th hold of the season.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


I came across a CD recently. One I thought I had thrown away. The cover has no title but a photo. In the photo is a happy couple. I had long thought all I had from my last relationship was a scrap book.

Made during the 2010 NFL postseason, the book has a hardbound green cover with “JETS” written across the front. Then found inside are clippings of the New York Jets’ run toward the 2010 AFC Championship game. That, of course, ended in bitter defeat. The following year, the Jets were making a similar run in the postseason again. I still had the scrapbook so I added clippings, hoping the last one would be of a victory parade. But it was just another year that ended in defeat.

This season the scrapbook remains the same as then. Except this time, there are no playoff games to watch. Maybe I should record angry fans calling radio stations complaining about the Jets. Unfortunately, however, the pain would not disappear.

Frustrated Jet fans have nowhere to go these days. The saying when your team’s season ends with a frown is really simple: “There is always next year.” As I grow older and approach my 30th Birthday, one thing is certain. “Next year” feels like another lost dream. This was the year the Jets were supposed to win it all. Back in July I had gotten into a shouting match with my brother. I felt I finally had ammunition to fire at a Patriot fan. At the time I felt Rex Ryan gave Jet fans a sense of confidence we never had before. This was during the days of the lockout. A few weeks later football was back. And so were Ryan’s bold Super Bowl predictions. He kept reminding the media his Jets had just made two consecutive AFC Championship games. It should make no difference they lost both. Heck, it was the first two years he was head coach. It was also the first two years of quarterback Mark Sanchez’s NFL career. After starting 4-2 in his postseason career, this had to be the Jets’ year. All that followed was a regular season which had one common ground as nineteen other teams. The 8-8 Jets failed to make the playoffs.

With so much parity in the NFL these days there are fewer “easy wins” than ever before. Look at last season. The Jets went 11-5, were a wild card playoff team, and eventually lost to the Steelers in the AFC Championship game. They struggled to beat the Lions, Browns, and Texans in consecutive weeks. All three of those teams did not reach the playoffs. The Jets easily could have finished 8-8 last year also. But you never hear Rex Ryan say that. All he says is how the Jets made it to back-to-back AFC title games. The Jets lost both of those games. I never recall the Buffalo Bills bragging about WINNING four consecutive AFC title games. Apparently getting to within a win of the Super Bowl is good enough. That will never be good enough for a long suffering Jet fan like me.

This was the season where the Jets’ fortune started to slip away. The exception was the season opening win against the Cowboys. If not for Tony Romo and a punt block as clutch as Billy Bob in Varsity Blues, the Jets would have been 7-9. From that lucky win, the Jets went 7-5 to be 8-5 and in control of their playoff destiny. Had they gone 2-1, they would have made the playoffs. Instead, they were humiliated in Philadelphia. Then the Giants beat them down on Christmas Eve. Making everything so much worse was losing in Miami to finish the season. There were a few times during the season in which you could say: “What if?” The game in Denver comes to mind. Sticking Tim Tebow inside his own 10-yard line late in the fourth seemed like a win in the making. Then everybody’s All-American marched through an overrated defense for what turned out to be the beginning of the end. The same defense had the Giants pinned at their own one late in the first half. What followed was a 99-yard touchdown pass from Eli to Cruz. Mark Sanchez’s last seven touchdown passes of the season added up to less yards. Then against Miami, Rex Ryan watched as Matt Moore started at his own five and went 95 yards for a long touchdown drive to put the fish ahead.

Now is a bitter offseason. Interviews of Rex Ryan and Mike Tannenbaum are miles from enlightening. Questions about why Santonio Holmes pouted on the sideline against the Dolphins are asked. The answers are like greeting cards. The same punk wide receiver only has four years left on his contract. Brad Smith, Braylon Edwards, and Jericho Cotchery were all tossed aside for this bum. Smith was a staple of the offense and special teams his whole career. Get lost though. Edwards had the biggest catches for the Jets last year. Not interested. Cotchery was one of Sanchez’s most reliable targets. We don’t need you, anymore. Apparently Holmes was a safer play. Heck, one more off the field foul and he could be banned from the NFL. Then the Jets sign Plaxico Burress and Derrick Mason. Some moves just make you scratch your head. Even more of a head scratcher came in week 15. Down 28-3, Holmes caught a touchdown and then taunted a 5-8 football team going nowhere. He got flagged and then congratulated by coaches and teammates on the sideline.

Today, the Jets third string quarterback blasted Holmes inadvertently on an Albama radio station. All Jet fans have to be excited about now is a higher first round pick than usual. When next year comes it will be different than this year. Nobody will care about what Rex Ryan and the Jets have to say. An old cliché’ goes, “A picture can say a thousand words.” As for photos on a CD or clippings in a scrapbook, the same can be said. Or by contrast, both can say nothing. Kind of like the Jets. Finally, they have nothing to say.