You would have thought watching last nights Yankee game that it was a win at all cost situation. Joe Girardi, is quickly becoming known for his analytic style of managing. You will often see him sorting through his binder, which is the size of a phone book, sifting through different pitching match-ups in late game situations. I am all for statistical analysis, as that goes hand-in-hand with the game of baseball these days, but Joe Girardi ALMOST out managed himself last night as he luckily pulled off a win.
For starters, Girardi channeled his inner Tony La Russa, batting his starting pitcher David Phelps in the 8th slot last night. I never really agreed with the logic of batting your pitcher 8th but at least there can be reasoning behind it at times, especially if it is a good hitting pitcher. Only one problem, Phelps isn’t exactly known for his bat. Instead Girardi attempted to justify his decision saying that because he batted Robinson Cano second in the line up, he did not want the pitcher’s to potentially lead off an inning Cano is due at-bat. He is referring to the event that you have the 9-1-2 spot due up.
First off, Cano has no right batting 2nd in this line-up. There is no reason he should be batting anything other than 3rd or 4th with this depleted roster. He is far and away the best hitter on this team and needs to be batting in a spot where he can drive in the most runs for the Yankees. Secondly, his reasoning is just down right awful, it was as if he had just come up with that excuse on the spot when that question was presented to him. It just doesn’t make any actual sense any way that I look at it.
Everyone KNEW this decision was going to effect this game some how, some way. In the top of the 9th with 2 outs and the bases loaded David Robertson was due up to bat (Robertson had entered the game in relief). Now in what would usually be a position players slot due at-bat, Girardi was forced to use a pitch hitter and called upon Brennan Bosch. He did go on to drive in the winning run with an infield single.
Great move right? Not so fast. Girardi had also pitch hit for Chris Nelson, the games starting third base man, earlier in the inning. Now entering the bottom of the 9th the Yankees were left with no infielders on the bench to step in and play third base. This forced Girardi to put Vernon Wells at third base. Wells has never played third base in his life! How was this an after thought?!? This is not the first time a situation like this has happened, just earlier this season Girardi was forced to put catcher Francisco Cervilli in at second base under similar circumstances. I would love to see where in that giant binder of his that it says this was the move to make.
I understand everything worked out great for the Yankees. They won the game and Vernon Wells even recorded an out at third, was there really any doubt that the ball would find him? Girardi has done a great job so far this season, he has the Yankees in better position than anyone could have imagined with this current roster. But he will need to tone these moves down a notch and coach a better ball game if this team is going to win games when they really matter. Girardi isn’t coaching a team that can overpower everyone on the way to winning a championship like in his 2009 team did.
In a city known for having high-profile players, making more money in a season than most will make in a lifetime, there are still players left that everyone can root for. Most people would rather cheer for a player making the league minimum, rather than someone making $20 million a year. Fans tend to adopt the gritty, hard-nosed, hustle players, as their fan favorites. Granted, these attributes that we all love, can only take you so far with the fans, if you don’t produce up to the cities standards, you will be booed right out-of-town. But, for the time being at least, these are some of the players Mets/Yankee fan’s should be pulling for.
Scott Rice (LHP) – Rice has one of the best stories going for all of New York baseball so far this season. He has spent the last 14 seasons in the minor league’s, playing for 18 different teams. His commitment to stick with the game for that long without ever seeing the big leagues, more than shows his love for the game. The 31-year-old reliever was able to win a spot in the bullpen this spring as the second lefty, beating out his younger counterparts and finally earning his way on a big league roster.
As if his story wasn’t good enough, Rice pitched the 9th inning on opening Day for the Mets, he struck out the first two batters he faced on his way to a 1-2-3 inning. When the game ended, he promptly took the game ball for safe keeping’s and found his father in the stands to celebrate his much awaited, major league debut. Rice has appeared in four games so far this season, allowing only one run. Yesterday, he earned his first major league victory, as the Mets won in come from behind fashion in the bottom of the ninth. I only hope he was able to retrieve the game ball to mark his first career victory as well.
Mike Baxter (OF) – Baxter is a local kid, born and raised in queens, which is enough to make him a player all Mets fan want to cheer for. But, being the “Pride of Whitestone” can only take you so far, it was his play on the field in 2012, that made him a fan favorite. The 28-year-old outfielder, became a pitch hitting specialist off the bench for the Mets last season, while starting sparingly in the outfield. He seemed to be constantly coming through with a key hit in late game situations or working his way on base with a walk, which he set a Mets record by walking five times in one game against the Padres last season. It’s patience like that at the plate that has helped give him a .360 career on-base percentage, which could be key to increasing his role with the Mets this season.
However, there is one moment from Baxter’s young career, that already will have him remembered forever in Mets history. In the 7th inning, of Johan Santana’s no-hitter last season, Baxter made a running catch, while running into the wall, that kept the no-hitter intact. It turned out to be the defensive play of the game. Ultimately, the catch cost Baxter, when he crashed into the wall, he bruised his left shoulder which sent him to the DL. This play will have him forever in the good graces of Mets fans as they root for him to progress this season.
Francisco Cervelli (C) – Cervelli has had extended stints with the Yankees in the 2009-2011 seasons. Then in 2012, with the signing of Russell Martin, the Yankees optioned Cervelli to AAA for just about the entire year. Despite his proven ability to be a more than serviceable back up big league catcher, The Yankees decided to let him get more playing time in the minors. To me, this move didn’t make much sense, despite hitting 21 home runs, Russell Martin only hit .211 on the year. Cervelli could have provided a proven bat to back him up on days off, giving them a contact hitter, at a notoriously low hitting position.
With the departure of Martin in the off-season, many expected the Yankees to go out and sign a catcher to come in a take the starting role. The Yankees decided to do otherwise, it seems they are willing to give Cervelli the opportunity to play everyday at the big league level and see if he can handle the load for an entire season. The 27-year-old catcher is a career .272 hitter, so far he is off to a good start, hitting .308 after the opening week of the season. This will be a make or break season for Cervelli with the Yankees, either he will prove himself that he can be a starter for them for years to come or he could falter to a back up catcher where many believe he ultimately will fall to. He has earned this shot at the starting position at the very least, now its time to run with the opportunity at hand.
Brett Gardner (OF) – Gardner is entering his sixth season with the Yankees, after being a key member of the Yankees outfield from 2009-2011, a right elbow injury cost him just about all of the 2012 season. Now with a roster depleted due to injuries to much of the Yankees roster, they will rely heavily on players such as Gardner to carry the load early on. The 29-year-old outfielder is known for his speed, stealing 40+ bases twice in his career and possesses a good range in the outfield. He is a career .264 hitter, but is well-known for making contact at the plate and seeing among the most pitches per at bat in the majors.
The Yankees are missing most of the power that their line up is traditionally made up of early on. They will look to play a form of small ball, relying on base hits and speed to score runs early on. This will make Gardner’s production a key to early offensive success, as these are the attributes he has become known for. He has struggled early in week one of the season, but look for Gardner to provide a spark for the Yankees lineup going forward. I have always wondered if Gardner is nothing more than a fourth outfielder, who can provide speed on the bases in late inning situations. He has produced enough thus far in his career to keep himself in a starting role, this could be a year that he solidifies himself as a mainstay in the Yankees outfield.
Finally, we have meaningful baseball games to discuss. In what felt like an eternity of a wait, one of my favorite day of the year returned, Opening day. Despite the long odds Vegas may be giving your team to win the World Series, none of that matters on opening day. Every team gets a fresh start and every fan believes this will be “the year” for their team.
In New York we are looking at two teams going in different directions. We have the aging Yankees, who look to prove naysayers wrong, in that they are not an overall the hill bunch. There opening day lineup was far from intimidating, as they are dealing with a list of perinatal All-Stars , Jeter, Arod, Texeria and Granderson on the disabled list. Then we have the Mets, who’s roster is filled with players that may leave some fans asking “Who are these guys?“. The two teams couldn’t of gotten off to completely different starts, the Yankees dropped their home opener to lifetime rival, Boston Red Sox, 8-2, while the Mets won in blowout fashion, with an 11-2 victory over the Padres.
The Yankees struggles began with C.C. Sabathia. He has a reputation for getting off to slow starts in April and May, and he showed no signs of that changing this year. Sabathia allowed all four of his runs in the second inning. Although he settled down, He was only able to last five innings on the day, not what the Yankees were looking for out of their ace. Francisco Cervelli did cut with a two run single, but that would be all the offense they would get. The bullpen went on to allow four more runs, three of which were given up by Joba Chamberlin. I’m not sure if I was more disturbed by how ineffective he was or that mustache.
This was obviously not the start the Yankees were hoping to get off too. The offense, will have to play a different style of baseball than fans have been accustomed to in recent years. This team will not be breaking any home run records, if they want to keep it together while they wait for the Calvary to arrive, they must learn to play a form of small ball. Most importantly, with the amount of injuries hurting their line up, it will be extremely important for the pitching staff to carry the load these next few weeks to keep them in ball games.
Mets fans are happy, as they sit atop the NL East, even if its only for today. They couldn’t of asked for a much better start yesterday. Jonathon Niese went 6 2/3’s strong, allowing only two runs, showing early signs that this could be a break out season for the left hander. What I enjoyed most about his start, was how he fought with Terry Collins to remain in the game heading into the 7th. It’s that type of attitude this team has lacked in years past and can only hope will spread among the rest of the roster.
The bats were alive yesterday as they recorded 13 hits on the day. Colin Cowgill, Daniel Murphy, Marlon Byrd, John Buck and Jon Niese all recorded two hits. The biggest hit of the day, came off the bat of Cowgill, who hit a grand slam in the 7th to cap off the day in the 11-2 win. The outfield is the biggest question mark coming into the season, which made is all the more important for Cowgill and Bryd to make an early impact. There wasn’t anything to complain about from a Mets standpoint yesterday, it will just be a matter if these journeyman players can continue to produce along with the young players progressing as the year goes on.
All in all, it is just one game for both the Mets and Yankees. For the moment, it has Yankee fans wondering if this is a sign of things to come and Met fans hoping they can pull off another Miracle year, only time will tell.