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C70 At Bat Series ‘Playing Peppers: 2011 New York Yankees’

Lady Loves Pinstripes took part in Playing Peppers 2011 New York Yankees, which is an annual featured series over at C70 At Bat.

What is Playing Peppers? Here is the description directly from Daniel who runs the popular baseball site C70 At Bat, which is a must go visit for any baseball fan.

Two years ago, I started a series I called Playing Pepper, where I asked questions of bloggers of each major league team about the season to come.  Not only was that informative and entertaining, it led to the spawning of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance.  With spring training coming up, it’s time to get back into shape by again playing a little pepper.

Here is the intro to Playing Peppers 2011 New York Yankees, which lists all the participants and their great baseball blogs that are definitely worth a look:

If you ever want to get a strong opinion, toss out the word “Yankees” to a group of baseball fans.  Some may love them, some may hate them, but all of them have some sort of feeling about them.

The tradition and history of the Yankees appeals to a lot of people, while their checkbook baseball (or at least, that perception) turns off just as many.  So, what’s the one good thing about the biggest team in the biggest market?  There are a lot of great bloggers to tap.

Kate Conroy writes for the blog Lady Loves Pinstripes.  You can find her thoughts over there or follow her on Twitter or Facebook to get a different perspective on the Yanks.

Gregg Snyder, Jr. pens Double G Sports, which not only covers the Yankees but also other New York sporting teams, both professional and college.  Keep up with him on Twitter as well as Facebook, or give a listen to his regular Blog Talk Radio show.

Yanks Go Yard is written by Andrew Corselli as part of the FanSided network.  You can find him over on Twitter as well.

Even if you don’t like the Bronx Bombers, stick around through the jump as we discuss what their biggest weakness is in 2011.

C70: What is your opinion of the Yankees off-season?

LLP: The Yankees off-season was a media circus. Between Derek Jeter‘s contract negotiations to Cliff Lee going to the Phillies to Andy Pettitte retiring, the Yankees just couldn’t get a break. Then the team signs the best closer in the American League, maybe in baseball and there is a public disagreement between GM and owners. Looking back, it was actually refreshing for me as a fan to see my Yankees get a reality check. It broke my heart at times, but the team is so blessed already and I think as a whole Yankee Universe is better for it. Continue reading ‘C70 At Bat Series ‘Playing Peppers: 2011 New York Yankees’’ »

Yankees Vs. Red Sox: Looking At The Facts Spells A Different Story For Rivalry

MLB is home to one of biggest rivalries in sports between the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox.

Over the last few seasons’ things have been become quieter and tamer in comparison to the bench clearing brawls of the late 90’s and early 00’s.

Boston and New York fans live for these 18 games every season because so much pride is on the line.

I am lucky enough to have attended countless match-ups between the two, both at Yankees Stadium and Fenway Park, and let me say it is baseball at its peak.

Heading into 2011 season, every Tom, Dick and Harry has staked claim that it is the World Series or bust for the Red Sox. Leaving the Yankees with the Wild Card as their only viable hope of getting into the postseason.

Maybe it’s because this off-season could not have gone more differently, as Boston signed two monsters in Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez and the Yankees lost two giants in Cliff Lee and Andy Pettitte.

Don’t get to cocky yet Red Sox nation, as when you get to the nitty gritty and compare players position by position the teams don’t look all that different.

Getting Gonzalez would be huge for any team, but the Red Sox needed to get a player of his caliber to match Yankees Mark Teixeira. Tex is no slouch and it was a hole for Boston, especially after losing Adrian Beltre and Victor Martinez’s power bats in the line-up.

Overall, things are pretty even but even though I am a Yankees fan, realistically the Bombers have a slight edge.

Here is my breakdown (click picture to enlarge) of the Red Sox vs. Yankees, position by position (pitching post is coming shortly) and which team has the stronger player. Continue reading ‘Yankees Vs. Red Sox: Looking At The Facts Spells A Different Story For Rivalry’ »

2011 MLB Team Preview: New York Mets

For the first season since 2007, the New York Mets finally made some off-season changes to get the once successful franchise back on track.

In typical Mets fashion, fans started to get hope for the future only to be hit with another blow, that their team’s owner can’t pay because he might be Madoff insider. Yikes.

The large and dedicated Mets fanbase just can’t seem to catch a break. All the fans are thankful for is that the team plays in the same city as the Yankees, so it won’t just disappear.

The Mets have embraced the role of not being the Yankees and getting mad about it instead of doing something about it. Let’s look at the Amazins heading into 2011 season:

The Positives:

It took long enough for the Mets owners to realize that leadership changes had to be made; as GM Omar Minaya and Skipper Jerry Manuel had well worn out their welcome.

Finally, Fred Wilpon did something about it by hiring Sandy Alderson to replace Minaya and Terry Collins to take over as skipper.

Getting a fresh perspective on expectations and acceptable clubhouse behavior will set a new tone.

Collins is a fierce competitor and the players seem to have responded to him, some players even showed up to Spring Training days ahead of schedule. Collins is known for his own dramatic tendencies, and in his last two managerial stints he lost his players respect and was fired from both jobs. That was 11 years ago and Collins acknowledges openly that he didn’t enjoy himself, but now he does.

Look anything is an improvement from Manuel and hopefully Collins will clean up the rebellious, do-whatever attitudes of many Mets players. Mets fans should look at Joe Torre’s managerial history pre-Yankees to see that men can change for the better.

GM Sandy Alderson should thrive and is the guy who can turn this mess around. Alderson has a resume filled with years of success with the Oakland A’s and San Diego Padres. Also, he was a Marine and this should bring some structure. So far Alderson has said all the right things.

The hiring of Collins and Alderson sends the players a clear message, things are about to change and you don’t rule the team anymore.

The Mets definitely don’t lack talent, already have 3B David Wright and P Mike Pelfry to build around, have some terrific young talent in 1B Ike Davis and have a lights out closer in K-rod.

Wright is the franchise’s prize, posting a .283 batting average with 29 homers, 103 RBIs and stole 19 bases in 2010. Wright is in his prime at 27-years of age and look for another solid season from the Mets franchise player.

If the Mets can get production from Jason Bay and Jose Reyes, the Mets have a seriously competitive line-up, who can also run on the basepads. Can’t ask for much more, but need to execute all that wasted talent in 2011.

The Negatives:

The Mets have so many questions and with their lengthy history of giving the wrong answers, makes it hard for fans to trust that better days are ahead.

The traps are all set for the team to fail in 2011, whether they will battle or fold again is up to the players. See any MLB team has the potential to implode, but most don’t fold when it happens like the Mets. Continue reading ‘2011 MLB Team Preview: New York Mets’ »

New York Yankee Fans Have To Play Nice With AJ Burnett Too

After a disappointing finish in 2010 season, New York Yankees pitcher AJ Burnett knew what he has to do.

When Burnett first came to New York in 2009 from the Toronto Blue Jays he delivered, posting a 4.04 ERA, eating 207 innings and 195 strikeouts in the regular season. He followed by making 5 postseason starts, where he went 6+ innings in four starts.

The Yankees won three critical playoff games with Burnett on the mound, which eventually led to the franchise’s 27th World Series title.

Burnett showed no signs of slowing down when 2010 season began. He didn’t lose a game in March/April finishing the month with a 3-0 record over five starts and a 2.34 ERA.

By the All-Star break Burnett started to slip. Still, he left no time for the Yankees to worry, as in July Burnett posted a 3-1 record over five starts, an ERA of 2.0 and threw one complete game.

It is easy to forget, or it was hard to remember how well Burnett was pitching last season before the real damage came in August.

Burnett literally was Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in pinstripes, finishing 0-4 with a 7.80 ERA in five starts.

Whether it was pitching coach Dave Eiland going AWOL for weeks, or something personal like his mystery black eye, really didn’t matter because the discontent was all over his face. Something was clearly off.

Always known to be a fierce competitor, Burnett career is branded as wild hitting 89 batters in 12 seasons, 19 of which were from 2010.

In all fairness, no pitcher has ever been perfect all season long but no one expected Burnett too be either.

Burnett performances deemed ‘bad days’ are a whole new level of mess. Usually it happens in the third or fourth inning, after Burnett flashes though the two or three prior. Than he just implodes, sometimes allowing seven or more runs to score with only one out achieved.

If Burnett is not pulled and comes in following the hell he just allowed, he has a tendency to go right back to pitching like a stud again. Burnett defines frustration; you can see it in his face and on every fan at the game when this happens.

See all pitchers are expected to have tough games, but Burnett would have four or five solid outings maximum knowing inevitable struggles were on the horizon. This was part of having Burnett on your staff, and trust me any MLB team would be happy to have AJ as their solid number two. His stuff is electric and he so much natural talent.
The last two months of 2010, Burnett seemed to be stuck in that one bad inning, but it was no longer sandwiched in between accomplishments. It was painful for everyone to witness.

Now, with 2011 Spring Training in full swing fans have seen Burnett in a few outings and he looks phenomenal. He built a pitching facility on his property in the off-season and all his hard work is headin in the right direction.

Continue reading ‘New York Yankee Fans Have To Play Nice With AJ Burnett Too’ »

2011 MLB Team Preview: Chicago White Sox

Don’t underestimate the Chicago White Sox heading into 2011, because this team is well-rounded enough to win ballgames.

The White Sox lack the star power names that their division rival Twins and Tigers have with Joe Mauer and Miguel Tejada respectively, but they make up for this in depth.

Led by one of my personal favorite personalities in baseball, Manager Ozzie Guillen makes this one wild group. Tough as nails and never short of drama with Guillen’s no-hold-bard remarks, the White Sox look better than they did heading into 2010.

Whether the White Sox can utilize all their skills is another thing. They have the pieces, but it will take an concerted team effort to have seasonal success.

The Positives:

White Sox fans should be ready to witness home-run mania in 2011.

Acquiring powerhouse hitter Adam Dunn from the Nationals brings a monster bat to an already powerful line-up.

Just how serious?

Well, Dunn had back-to-back seasons hitting 38 home-runs at Nationals Park, which is not a hitting friendly venue. Prior to that Dunn had four seasons of 40 home-runs between 2005-2008. This guy is just 31-years-old and he can flat out hit, expect 45+ from his bat at welcoming US Cellular Field.

Than add the bat of 1B Paul Konerko, who led the team in 2010 with a .312 batting average, 39 home-runs and 111 RBIs. Konerko is 35-years-old, so repeating those numbers is unlikely but he will still produce close to them. Dunn also takes pressure of Konerko.

Round off the line-up wit Alex Rios, Alexei Ramirez and Carlos Quentin A forgettable factor is if Quentin can stay off the DL for the whole season, it could be the silent difference maker. Rios can pop up 25+ homers and he is a threat on the bases stealing 34 in 2010, while Ramirez had 29 doubles, 18 home-runs and 70 RBIs making him one of the strongest bats at the shortstop position.

Outfielder Juan Pierre stole 68 bases last season, which makes him a pain for any pitcher on the mound but he has to stay base. Pierre was early to Spring Training, as he wants to improve so this could be an asset. That is if Guillen really works on bunting with Pierre.

The White Sox pitching is made up of innings eaters. Not one stands out from the next and don’t expect too much out of Jake Peavy who is returning from serious shoulder surgery. The good thing for Peavy is he doesn’t have to be the team’s ace because with a staff of Mark Buehrle, Gavin Floyd, John Danks and with Edwin Jackson’s newfound form, Peavy doesn’t have to be anymore.

Some might think that they lost Bobby Jenks to the Red Sox, but the White Sox didn’t need him with Chris Sale and Matt Thornton. Guillen has yet to name the closer of the two, but regardless that is a nice one-two combo coming out of the bullpen. My bet is Sale will be the starting closer.

Catcher AJ Pierzynski who is a solid defender and is familiar with the staff. He has been a stud behind the plate for Chicago since arriving in 2005, the year they won a World Series. His production with the bat has not been great, but at 35-years-old he is a team leader in the clubhouse.

Finally, how can you not love Ozzie, Ozzie, Ozzie, I absolutely adore him the way he does Derek Jeter. Colorful, doesn’t sugarcoat anything, and just oozes emotions that he must be a trip to play would be my guess.

The Negatives:

Between injuries, wasted money on former high draft picks and slumps the White Sox have a tendency to wildly inconsistent. Last season’s ups and downs were so severe that it had to be emotionally draining for the players.

The White Sox still have no clear ace in their rotation, which means there is never that semi-guaranteed win every five games.  It just can’t be Buehrle, though he will probably pitch Opening Day, as he easily had the play the year when he launched the 2010 season. Continue reading ‘2011 MLB Team Preview: Chicago White Sox’ »

A Story That Makes You Hate The New York Yankees A Little Less

On Friday night the New York Yankees hosted rivals Boston Red Sox down in Tampa, FL at Steinbrenner Field.

The game’s results are meaningless, but the Red Sox won the game 5-3.

Even as everyone continued to drool over the second stand out performance by Yankee pitching prospect Manny Banuelos, there was a story told about something off the field that captivated anyone who was listening. The fact that this was kept quiet makes it all the more meaningful.

It is well worth reading and knowing, as it made me proud not only to be a Yankees fan but a baseball fan. Here is the story PART OF ONE BIG FAMILY written by Daniel Barbarsi of the Wall Street Journal:

TAMPA—Hours before a game last September, word went around the Yankee clubhouse that hitting coach Kevin Long wanted to gather the entire team for a rare meeting.

Soon, the players were huddled up, and Long told them about Bridget, an 11-year-old girl they had never met, the daughter of Ron Johnson, the first base coach for the Red Sox.

Bridget, Long said, had been in an accident. She was riding a horse alongside the road in August, near the Johnsons’ Tennessee home. A driver came around the corner a little too fast and plowed into Bridget’s horse, severing the young girl’s leg above the knee.

Bridget survived, and doctors re-attached the leg—but her body rejected it, and it had to be removed. She would need a prosthetic leg, and although the Red Sox had been financially generous to Johnson, money was still a problem, Long told the roomful of Yankee players.

Johnson had been Long’s minor-league manager in the mid-1990s. When Long’s playing career was winding down, Johnson helped Long get his first coaching job, with the Kansas City Royals—even going to management on Long’s behalf when a promised job offer didn’t materialize. It was a debt Long always wanted to repay.

“Our friendship is deep. It goes way, way back,” Long said. “Friends aren’t just there for the good times, they’re there when things go backwards on you. Anything I could help him with, I wanted to do.”

Bridget’s story touched the Yankees. It didn’t matter one bit that Johnson worked for the rival Red Sox, A.J. Burnett said.

“He came to us, and you could hear it in K-Long’s voice how important it was to him,” Burnett said. “You just wanted to help in any way you can. We’re a huge family here. Whether you’re a Yankee or anybody else, we’re all in it together.” Continue reading ‘A Story That Makes You Hate The New York Yankees A Little Less’ »