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New York Yankees: A Few Offseason Notes and 2011 Hopes

A lot has gone on in New York Yankee Universe since losing to the Texas Rangers in the 2010 ALCS and handing the title of “reigning champions” over to the San Francisco Giants.

So, how are the 2011 New York Yankees looking heading into the season? Let’s take a look.

The Offseason Summary:

The New York Yankees headed into the offseason with high expectations, but everything seemed to take a turn for the worst.

Yankee Captain and New York icon, Derek Jeter’s new contract negotiations became a soap opera and the press had their claws all over it.

Fans were pissed, some at Jeter but mostly at the organization for the belittling and penny pitching games being played on the Captain. It all worked out in the end, but it did leave bruises behind that hopefully won’t linger too long, but you never know.

That followed the news that Cliff Lee was not going to play in the Bronx, but instead went back to his old team in Philadelphia.

It came as a shock because the Yankees usually get whatever they go after.

Now that time passed since Lee’s decision, it was a humbling experience and a needed one, particularly in Yankee Universe.

For Yankee fans, it makes them realize that not every player’s dream is to be in pinstripes; for the team, they will have to work that much harder for anything they earn this season.

Hey, at least Yankee-haters can’t use “the buying championships” excuse any longer, as that torch has now been lit in Boston and Philadelphia too, and that is a fact.

One resigning that GM Brian Cashman sealed up without much drama, was that of closer Mariano Rivera for two more seasons.

Owner Hal Steinbrenner, who finally took some charge and made his daddy proud too, made a vital move by adding Rafael Soriano to the roster. Soriano was the AL’s best closer in 2010 and is elated to be Mo’s set-up man.

This move gives the Yankees the best eighth and ninth arms in the game, but it also provides a back up in case Mo’s age catches up to his talents.

So, how do the Yankees look heading into 2011? Continue reading ‘New York Yankees: A Few Offseason Notes and 2011 Hopes’ »

2011 NFC Championship Game Preview: Green Bay Packers vs. Chicago Bears

NFL fans are buzzing awaiting the conference championship games this weekend.

By early Monday morning, two of the four remaining teams left will head to Dallas, Texas to play for a championship on February 6th, 2011; the other two will head home.

Who is going to win and represent the NFC in the Superbowl?

Green Bay Packers vs. Chicago Bears, 2011 NFC Championship

The Packers head to Chicago to play the Bears on Sunday, and it is no secret that the Packers seem to be the overall favorite to win it all.

Packers QB Aaron Rodgers has been dynamic in both playoff games after the team barely made the playoffs. Rodgers does have some help from the variety of great receivers he can throw the ball to, like WR Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, Jordy Nelson and James Jones. Rodgers also has a new partner in crime in running back James Starks, who set a Green Bay rookie record with 123 rushing yards on just 23 carries against the Philadelphia Eagles in their 21-16 Wild Card win.

Rodgers completed 31 of 36 passes for 366 yards against the top-seeded Atlanta Falcons, who were virtually unbeatable at home until they hosted Rodgers and the Packers a week ago. Rodgers connected with his receivers for three touchdowns, and he scored one rushing in the 48-21 win.

Packers CB Charles Woodson and LB Clay Matthews have been leading the defense, as the Packer D dominated the Falcons with five sacks.

Chicago QB Jay Cutler is looking to repeat his performance against the Seattle Seahawks in the divisional game, a 35-24 win last weekend. Cutler, unlike Rodgers, has not yet earned the Bears fans’ trust, but that can all change if he leads the Bears to Dallas. Finding the legs of Matt Forte and utilizing the run game are why the Bears are a game away from the Super Bowl. Continue reading ‘2011 NFC Championship Game Preview: Green Bay Packers vs. Chicago Bears’ »

1985 Chicago Bear: ‘The Superbowl Shuffle’

The 1985 Chicago Bears made a music video that is one of my favorite memories from childhood.

From California to New York City, ‘The Superbowl Shuffle‘ infected the entire country.

This is for all NFL fans to enjoy:

2011 AFC Championship Game Preview: New York Jets Vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

NFL fans are buzzing awaiting the Championship games to commence this weekend.

By early Monday morning, two of the four remaining teams left will head to Dallas, Texas to play for a championship on February 6th 2011; the other two will head home.

Let’s look at the AFC Championship Game, as the New York Jets head to Pittsburgh to face the Steelers.

New York Jets vs. Pittsburgh Steelers, 2011 AFC Championship

The New York Jets are off to Pittsburgh to face the Steelers on Sunday night, in a game that will send one team home and the other to footballs holiest grail, the Superbowl.

The Jets have taken down the Colts and the Patriots; as Coach Rex Ryan’s game plan was not only on the field, as the Jets gave trash talking a new meaning.

Offensive? Yes. Classless? Definitely. Necessary? Maybe not, but in sports professional anything goes as long as you are winning and the Jets are still doing that.

So following the 28-21 win against the Patriots, most figured the Jets would start another week filled with more ridiculous antics.

Instead, the Jets have remained virtually silent, with only words of praise and admiration for the Steelers and QB Ben Roethlisberger. Making everyone wonder, why stop now?

The Steelers are not the preppy Pats, or orderly Colts, they are rough, dicey and hard-hitting.

They’re not polished or polite, as the Steelers are more what the Jets dream of becoming, terrifying and you don’t mess with any of them. For whatever reason the Steelers have the Jets respect.

Still, the Jets are no slouches either. Whether or not it is justified, Game-Green enters this game with a wealth of self-confidence. In the last two weeks New York has been on the road and trodden two of the supreme quarterbacks of all time, first Peyton Manning and second Tom Brady. Continue reading ‘2011 AFC Championship Game Preview: New York Jets Vs. Pittsburgh Steelers’ »

New York Yankees: Without Risk There Is No Reward, So Get To Know Andruw Jones

Andruw Jones
Image via Wikipedia

It is official: Ex-Atlanta Braves superstar Andruw Jones has officially signed with the New York Yankees.

MLB Trade Rumors is reporting a one-year deal at $2MM bucks with performance incentives worth another $1.2MM for 2011.

Jones has a career batting average of .256 with 407 home-runs and 1,222 RBIs.

This is agent Scott Boras’ second signing in the Bronx this week, as closer Rafael Soriano signed for three years worth $35MM, but he can opt out of the contract at the end of 2011 or 2012 and it doesn’t include a no trade clause.

Soriano was the best closer in the American League last season posting a 1.73 ERA and had 45 saves in 2010.

Soriano will set-up for Mariano Rivera, a job he feels is an absolute privilege.

This was a solid pick-up by Hal Steinbrenner and President Randy Levine, who took the reigns from GM Brian Cashman to get the deal done.

Getting back to Jones, who indisputably was one of the best players in baseball for almost a decade.

Just to get some perspective on how good, in 2005 Jones hit 51 home-runs and 128 RBIs. In the following season Jones’ bat posted 41 bombs and 129 RBIs. Jones also earned a Silver Slugger and Hank Aaron Award in 2005 and two of his 10 Gold Gloves for prevailing defense as an outfielder.

Jones was an absolute monster, as those numbers are so nasty it is to the point of almost unbelievable.

Please realize that this is not the Jones the Yankees just signed. Super Agent Boras had to do cartwheels to get over $2MM and possibly more, for a player who has fallen like Jones.

Just looking at his seasonal stats, it is easy to see that when the Braves ousted Jones is when his real struggles began.

Here is a little history on Mr. Jones:

Jones signed with the Atlanta Braves when he was just 16. He spent his first 12-seasons in Atlanta. In 2007, the Braves did not renew Jones’ contract.

Jones had no home pre-2008 season, until signing a two-year, $34MM contract to go play for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

That love affair ended after one season, as Jones showed up overweight, out-of-shape and posted a .158 batting average. Clearly, Jones was not interested in being a Dodger and the feeling was mutual.

This left Jones homeless once again. His best offer was a minor league deal to play for the Texas Rangers in 2009. Jones had no other options, but after showing up fat and not fit, Texas decided not to keep him either.

As a Ranger, Jones played in 82 games, posting a batting average of .222 and slamming 17 home-runs.

Still, this was a 10-time gold glove winner, who was still productive as recently as two years prior making teams wonder what was going on, because Jones was just 31 years old.

Next up was the Chicago White Sox, who felt that $500,000 was little to lose if they could get Jones close to his old self. Jones signed another one-year deal in 2010, making Chicago his third home in three seasons.

Jones came to White Sox spring training 30 pounds lighter and in shape, which is a positive change. Under the leadership of skipper Ozzie Guillen, Jones hit 19 home runs, 48 RBIs, in 278 at bats and played in 107 games, the most games Jones had played in since 2007.

Jones also had career milestone while in Chicago, hitting home-run #400 on July 11th. Continue reading ‘New York Yankees: Without Risk There Is No Reward, So Get To Know Andruw Jones’ »

2011 New York Yankees: Why Gardner And Granderson Need To Come In Hot

In 2010, the Yankees were adamantly clear that it was repeat or bust.

The reigning 2009 champion New York Yankees lost in the ALCS, eventually passing the World Series crown to the San Francisco Giants.

Most teams would be elated if that was how their last two seasons had panned out, but up in the Bronx expectations run high.

Reading the 2011 roaster is not going to provide much comfort, as the Bombers have more holes to fill this season compared to the last two combined.

Still, there are positives that weren’t there in 2009 or 2010, in particular the emergence of outfielders Brett Gardner and Curtis Granderson.

Gardner and Granderson’s roles are more vital than ever this coming season.

The Yankees are confident in this duo’s abilities, so much so that GM Brian Cashman did not go after Carl Crawford or Jayson Werth during the offseason.

Why, and how, is this tandem so important in 2011?

Let’s look at both guys individually:

Curtis Granderson:

Granderson’s first year in pinstripes did not start on the right foot. After hitting a game-winning home run in Fenway on Opening Day weekend, Granderson started to struggle, which turned into a slump and fans were starting to stamp him as a bad trade.

Granderson had only posted seven home runs, 24 RBIs and 51 strikeouts in the first half of the 2010. He also missed the entire month of May due to a pulled hamstring.

Things were not looking good, and frustrations were growing on both sides. Had Grandy forgotten his talents in Detroit? At the All-Star break it sure seemed that way.

After tweaking his swing with Yankee hitting coach/miracle-man Kevin Long, Granderson starting crushing balls again, and he hasn’t looked back since.

In the second-half of 2010, Granderson more then doubled his home runs going from seven to 17. His meager 24 RBIs in the first half raised by 19, as in July, August and September he had 43 RBIs, 71 hits, nine double and four triples.

Granderson has been known to strikeout a ton, but in those three months he only bit it 72 times in 282 at-bats, which was a marked improvement.

Granderson has always been an elite outfielder and his skills never faltered defensively in 2010, which kept Yankee fans optimistic.

What I love about Granderson is that neither clutch situations, nor location faze him. It is as simple as, he is either hitting or he is not. Continue reading ‘2011 New York Yankees: Why Gardner And Granderson Need To Come In Hot’ »