Posts Tagged ‘New York Yankees’

#2, Derek Jeter . . . Jeter

Thursday, September 25th, 2014


The simple truth is this: if you write a story on your blog about the New York Yankees (even on a blog that is focused on the Washington Nationals), people will read it. Not just some people, a lot of people. Put simply: a lot more people are willing to read about the Yankees than about the Nationals.

How do we know that? Because we tried it. Earlier this season we posted a pic of a baseball card of Joe DiMaggio on CFG’s “Facebook” page and received five times as many views as a normal posting. Yes, it’s a “single data point” (as they say in Washington), but it’s compelling. But why?

“Americans love a winner and will not tolerate a loser,” General George Patton told his troops during World War Two. “Americans play to win all the time. I wouldn’t give a hoot in Hell for a man who lost and laughed.” Patton’s right of course, which explains the appeal of the Gothams — and why people are paying so much attention, just now, to Jeter.

There’s no way to prove this, but we believe it’s true: if the Yankees had spent the last twenty years in last place, Jeter wouldn’t be getting the kind of attention he is now. And if the Yankees weren’t the Yankees (if, say, they were the Mets), they wouldn’t be America’s teams. The Yankee are the Yankees because they’re winners.

Yes, yes, yes. Of course. Jeter’s retiring and he’s had a great career, but we doubt if as many people would be paying attention to Jeter if he’d spent twenty years with the Astros, or even the Cubs. Face it: the Braves, Cubs and Dodgers (or anyone else, for that matter) aren’t America’s team, the Yankees are. And there are statistics to prove it.

Then too, it’s not as if Jeter didn’t have something to do with those five World Series rings he owns. We would even claim that while it’s likely that many, many baseball fans agree with what Keith Olbermann said the other day, people remain fascinated by him (and his Yankees) because . . . well, he’s a Yankee.

And, for the record here, in part, is what Olbermann said: “Contrary to what you have heard, Derek Jeter is not the greatest person in human history. He did not invent baseball, he did not discover electricity, he is not the greatest shortstop who ever lived.”

We agree with the gist of this, while noting that extolling the greatness of people is a current media fixation, a kind of art form. Talk show host Larry King once said that he thought there was no musician who ever lived who was better than Michael Jackson. One of the guests on his program furrowed his brow, shook his head — and offered this: “Well, there’s Mozart.”


It’s All Strasburg In Atlanta

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014


The Nationals edged closer to playing in October Monday night, downing the Braves at Atlanta’s Turner Field behind the shut-down seven inning pitching of righty ace Stephen Strasburg. Strasburg stymied the Braves, 4-2, leaving the Nationals on the verge of their second National League East championship in three years.

Strasburg has always had difficulty pitching against the Braves at Turner Field and entered the game with a stiff neck, but none of these problems were much in evidence on Monday. The righty gave up five hits while striking out seven and walking none in a 90 pitch outing. The win gave the Nats their league leading 86th win on the season.

“I’ve never seen him pitch bad against us,” Braves skipper Fredi Gonzalez said after the Nats win. “You see the numbers, the seven-plus ERA his last four starts here. He’s a pretty darn good pitcher every time we face him. I know those numbers don’t bare that. But he’s a guy that we respect. He’s a guy who has been a big pitcher for them.”

Strasburg’s win was also the result of timely Nationals hitting, which began with a Denard Span double off of Atlanta starter Ervin Santana in the third inning. Span’s double plated Wilson Ramos for Washington’s first score. Ramos then homered in the top of the 5th inning for the Nats second score. The Nats added their third run on a Strasburg single in the 7th and a Nate Schierholtz RBI in the 8th.

The Braves mounted a comeback in the 9th inning, with Rafael Soriano taking the mound to protect a 4-0 lead. Andrelton Simmons greeted Soriano with a double and then scored on a Justin Upton double to left. When Soriano walked Chris Johnson with two outs, Nats manager Matt Williams brought in Drew Storen to get the third out — a B.J. Upton grounder that ended the game.

The Braves frustration at falling out of both the race for the N.L. East crown and a spot as a Wild Card team was evidenced in the 6th inning when first sacker Freddie Freeman was called out on strikes by home plate umpire Tim Timmons. Freeman slammed his bat in disgust and was ejected from the game; when Gonzalez defended his player, he was also tossed.

We all collectively, from the front office to our coaches to our fans, we want to win,” said manager Fredi Gonzalez. “Anything short of us getting into some playoff game or play-in game is not acceptable. You see guys fighting.”

The loss symbolized the demise of the Braves who, despite their early season woes with a rash of pitching injuries, were supposed to contend with the Nationals for the N.L East title. That’s not what happened: Atlanta played well against the Nats, but poorly against the rest of the league. Last night’s loss put them at a so-so 75-75 for the year. A disappointment . . .

Screen Shot 2014-09-16 at 8.39.22 AM

Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: Baltimore’s Orioles are a single win away from clinching their first American League East title since 1997. Last night, against the Toronto Blue Jays, they continued their dominance of their division, finishing off the struggling Jays, 5-2. If they win again tonight, they’ll win the A.L. East crown . . .

It seemed only right that Wei-Yin Chen would be the pitcher to lead the O’s in Toronto. After last night’s performance (the underrated southpaw scattered nine hits in 5.2 innings of work), Chen is 16-4 on the season, the first time a Baltimore lefty had 16 or more wins in a season since Jimmy Key did it way back when . . .

“I allowed quite a few hits out there, but I was trying to battle,” Chen said of his performance after his team’s victory. “I was trying to keep the ball down without allowing too many runs. Fortunately I can do that with the help of my teammates . . .”


Marlins Hook The Nats, 3-0

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014


Henderson Alvarez pitched seven complete innings and Giancarlo Stanton had two hits and drove in two runs as the Miami Marlins shut out the Washington Nationals at Marlins Park on Tuesday night, 3-0. The victory was Miami’s sixth in a row and narrowed the gap separating them from first place in the National League East.

Alvarez showed why he’s one of Miami’s premier starters, particularly at home. Alvarez allowed just three hits while striking out four, outdueling Washington’s Stephen Strasburg. Strasburg matched Alvarez’s numbers, also allowing just four hits. The Washington righty also struck out four Marlins.

The Nationals had plenty of scoring opportunities against Alvarez, but couldn’t find a way to get their runners across the plate. The Nats had the bases loaded in the second inning with no outs, but failed to score, and then had Anthony Rendon on third and Bryce Harper on first in the fifth but couldn’t push a run across.

Alvarez admitted that he struggled in the early going, before finding his command. “I was in the bullpen and I didn’t feel like I always feel before I hit the field. I wasn’t into it. For several innings I had to fight through it,” Alvarez said of his performance. “When the bases loaded with nobody out, I started to find my control of my pitches and of the game.”

After showing a solid ability to push runners across the plate earlier in the current road trip, the Nationals reclaimed their inability to score with runners on base. Washington left 26 on base last night, threatening Miami’s lead in the last of the 9th, when they again failed to score with the bases loaded.

The game also marked a revival for the Marlins’ Giancarlo Stanton, who entered the game at zero for his last nine at bats. But Stanton certainly looked good against the Nationals, lacing a double to left against Strasburg in the bottom of the 6th, scoring Jordany Valdespin.

“I haven’t felt good for a while now,” Stanton said after last night’s victory. “I did a little setup pregame. Hopefully I’m feeling better and more comfortable at the plate. Today was a good plus to that.”

Screen Shot 2014-07-30 at 7.29.05 AM

Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: The St. Louis Cardinals and Los Angeles Dodgers are in the hunt for starting pitchers, with both teams inquiring about Boston’s Jon Lester, who’s a free agent after the season. The Redbirds have kicked the tires on nearly everyone who’s even remotely available, according to baseball analysts . . .

The once-upon-a-time pitching rich Cardinals are mired right in the middle of the pack with their staff, at least statistically, with both Michael Wacha and Jaime Garcia sidelined with arm issues. Wacha has a tweaky shoulder while Garcia is out for the duration with nerve problems in his pitching arm . . .

The loss of Wacha and Garcia have not sent the Cardinals into a tailspin, but St. Louis will need to bolster its pitching to have a shot at another world title. Everyone is in play: the Redbirds have scouted Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee and A.j. Burnett of the Phillies, Ian Kennedy of the Padres and Cleveland’s Justin Masterson, in addition to Lester . . .


Rockies Halt Streaking Nationals, 6-4

Thursday, July 24th, 2014


The Nationals four game winning streak was stopped by the Rockies at Coors Field on Wednesday, as a 9th inning Washington rally fell short and Colorado went on to win, 6-4. The hero for Colorado was starter Jorge De La Rosa (now an impressive 11-6 on the year), who threw into the 8th inning and struck out 11.

Matt Williams had nothing but praise for the Colorado right hander, whose performance helped to end the Rockies seven game skid. “He knows how to pitch here,” Williams said. “He has a surprising fastball when he needs it, but he relies on his changeup a lot. That’s a great strategy here.”

While De La Rosa pitched one of his best games of the year, the Rockies needed help from their bullpen, and a little luck, to take the victory. The Nats rallied to score two runs in the 9th inning and had the bases loaded when Colorado veteran reliever LaTroy Hawkins fanned Washington shortstop Ian Desmond to end the threat, and the game.

The 9th inning was a key for the Nationals, who looked like they might actually catch and then pass Colorado. Hawkins registered two outs before allowing RBI singles to Jayson Werth and Anthony Rendon to make it a 6-4 game. But the Nationals came up just short, providing Rockies’ fans with a too rare win at home . . .

“Got scary there at the end,” Colorado third sacker Nolan Arenado admitted. “We have a lot of confidence in Hawk. He’s done a great job this year putting people away.”

Despite the loss and failed rally, Washington scrapped out twelves hits on the Rockies, who are viewed as one of the best offensive teams in the game. Denard Span had a second solid game at the plate, going 4-5, while Danny Espinosa (now, with the injury to Ryan Zimmerman, a regular fixture at second base), weighed in with a double . . .

The Colorado win not only marked an end to Washington’s four game winning streak, it gave Stephen Strasburg his eighth loss on the year, against seven wins. Strasburg had trouble out of the gate, giving up three runs in the 1st inning on doubles from Josh Rutledge and Corey Dickerson, and singles to Ben Paulsen and Michael McHenry.

Strasburg was not satisfied with his performance, but gave himself points for hanging in in the tough Colorado environment. “Giving up three runs early, I could’ve easily shut it down,” Strasburg said after the loss. “I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to keep it as close as possible. Give the guys a chance to come back — anything can happen here.”

Screen Shot 2014-07-24 at 1.17.59 AM

Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: The Nationals will have the day off on Thursday, before facing the Redlegs in Cincinnati on Friday. The Reds vaulted themselves into contention in the N.L, Central before the All Star break, but nothing has gone well for them since then. The six game spiral now finds the Reds just a single game over .500 . . .

The Reds were swept by the Brewers in a three game set in Milwaukee, losing the last of three on Wednesday, 5-1. Not surprisingly, the Reds have been hit hard by injuries to Brandon Phillips and Joey Votto, which provided much of the Reds punch to a now suddenly anemic line-up . . .

“Offensively, we averaged two runs a game. That’s not going to cut it,” All Star third baseman Todd Frazier said after the Milwaukee loss on Wednesday. “We depend on our pitchers, and they’re pitching great. When we depend on them, we have to also produce . . .”


The Eagle Has Landed: The Yankees Golden Boy Loses In Chicago

Wednesday, May 21st, 2014


Masahiro Tanaka’s former team in Japan, the Rakuten Golden Eagles, isn’t named for a city, but for an internet shopping company — Rakuten — “where shopping is entertainment.” It’s an odd concept: the team is a company team that plays in Sendai, and was formed as a result of a crisis in the NPB, the Nippon Professional Baseball league.

The NPB was in trouble after the 2004 season, with players grumbling about compensation and two of the league’s teams facing financial difficulties. The problem was solved after the Orix Blue Wave (our favorite here at CFG) and the Osaka Kintetsu Buffaloes merged and the league added Rukuten, an expansion franchise that went almost nowhere until it got Tanaka.

Tanaka wasn’t an immediate star, but he eventually perfected his split finger fastball, notching 19 wins in 2011 and 24 wins last year — with no losses. As Tanaka got better, so too did Rakuten, capturing the Japan Series last year after posting an 82-59 season. Tanaka emerged as the league’s highest profile star, rocketing to that slot after the departure of the league’s previous celebrity arm, Yu Darvish.

This was the second golden age of Japanese baseball — an era that followed the triumphant career of Sadaharu Oh, the NPB’s earliest, greatest face. Oh was Japan’s Babe Ruth until Darvish and Tanaka started to pitch against each other, with Darvish compiling a breathtaking record with the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters.

It’s no wonder the Japanese were upset at losing Tanaka. Not only was the righty an amazing 24-0 at Rakuten (where former major leaguer Kevin Youkilis is currently playing), he helped a team that had revived the league take a national championship. And for many Japanese, particularly after the retirement of Oh and the departure of Darvish, he was the face of Japanese baseball.

Now, it seems — and given the imminent retirement of Derek Jeter — he’s becoming the face of the New York Yankees. But on Tuesday, the Yankees new “Golden Eagle” came back to earth, losing his first game of the season in pinstripes to the Chicago Cubs 6-1.

Screen Shot 2014-05-21 at 10.44.43 AM

Despite the loss, Tanaka pitched well, scattering eight hits over six innings — a quality start and, very often, good enough for a win. But Tanaka took the loss when his teammates proved inept against Cubs starter Jason Hammel, who shut down the Yankees line-up on four hits and six strikeouts.

The big blows in Tanaka’s loss were not, after all, big blows — the Cubs won on two sacrifice flies in the bottom of the 6th, an error from first sacker Mark Teixeira and a three RBI day from Mike Olt. The loss ended Tanaka’s MLB debut at eight games without a loss, leaving him 6-1 on the still young season.

The normally self-effacing Tanaka took the loss in stride, nearly apologizing for letting down the fans. “I’m a little bit disappointed because I think a lot of the fans were looking for me to keep on winning,” he said after the game. “Next time out, I’ll try to get a win again and get it going again.”

Yankees skipper Joe Girardi was much more analytical, saying that Tanaka’s splitter was not at its best. “If he has his good splitter tonight I think he gives a much better performance,” he said. It’s no secret that Tanaka has revived the Yankees, who were desperate for a front line pitcher after finishing 12 game behind the Red Sox last year — and he’s clearly put additional fans in the seats at Yankee stadium.

“Masahiro Tanaka is really, really, really good,” Hardball Talks Aaron Gleeman wrote last week. So far, Gleeman writes, Tanaka has compiled “the best strikeout-to-walk ratio ever for a 25-year-old pitcher who qualified for the ERA title” — ahead of Walter Johnson, Johan Santana, Roger Clemens, Ben Sheets, Pedro Martinez and three others.







Fister, Late HRs, Yield Arizona Series Win

Thursday, May 15th, 2014


Ian Desmond hit a 9th inning single with the bases loaded, and Tyler Moore followed with another hit, as the Nationals pushed across four runs against Arizona reliever Brad Ziegler — and the Nationals went on to win the third game of their three game Diamondbacks series, 5-1.

The four run 9th inning unlocked a straight-up pitchers duel, which featured a solid outing from Nationals newcomer Doug Fister. Fister threw seven innings of five hit baseball, matching Arizona’s Brandon McCarthy who went eight innings while yielding just two hits.

“We needed this one,” Nationals manager Matt Williams said after his team’s victory. “It salvages the road trip. It started off really bad and it’s nice to get this one and head home on a positive note.” The Nationals will get a day off before beginning a six game home stand against the Mets and Reds.

The Washington 9th inning started when Ziegler issued a walk to Denard Span, which was followed by a double to right off the bay of Anthony Rendon. Ziegler then intentionally walked Jayson Werth to load the bases. The next hitter, Desmond, then put Ziegler’s 84 mph sinker into left field, scoring Span and Rendon. Tyler Moore’s single then scored Desmond and Werth.

Screen Shot 2014-05-15 at 12.01.09 PM

Fister’s outing came as a relief for the Nationals, who view the righty (acquired in an off-season trade with the Detroit Tigers), as filling a missing piece in their rotation. After spending the start of the season nursing an injury, Fister’s first start in Oakland (where he gave up five earned runs in just 4.1 innings of work) was not auspicious. But the former Cat turned it around on Wednesday.

“He had good stuff,” D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said of Fister’s outing. “He was changing speeds. He’s got a really good sinker and he was throwing it to both sides of the plate. He started going to his offspeed stuff later in the game, and he just had us off balance. He threw a good game.”

Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: The Mets seemed to have the Yankees number this week — until last night, when the pinstripers push their best pitcher to the mound. In their first two games of the Mets-Yankees subway series this week, the Mets pummeled the Gehrigs, plating 21 runs while notching 24 hits . . .

The Mets outburst was met with head-scratching bewilderment by the New York media, which focused more on Yankee lapses than the Mets’ brilliance. Perhaps that’s understandable: the Mets took all four games in the subway series last year, and the first two games in the 2014 campaign set the tone for Yankee mediocrity . . .


Is There A “Nats Nation?”

Tuesday, April 29th, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-04-29 at 9.28.50 AM

Last week the New York Times published a fascinating, and unusual, look at baseball loyalties. “Using aggregated data” provided by Facebook, the Times published a map of U.S. baseball loyalties, color-coded by team — then accompanied the map with fourteen separate maps showing the boundaries separating the teams.

As the Times explained: “The maps were created using estimates of team support based on how many Facebook users ‘liked’ each team in a ZIP code. We applied the algorithm to smooth the date and fill the gaps where the data was missing.” Put another way: using the maps, readers can find out which team a large aggregate of fans support in a specific ZIP code. The process can get obsessive, but it yields sometimes surprising results.

The Yankees and Red Sox (in particular), but also the Braves (to a lesser extent) have national followings. The Yankees are an “empire” and the Red Sox are a “nation.” The Yankees have more followers in Emery County, Utah for instance, than any of the closest nearby teams — the Rockies, Diamondbacks and Giants (who are third). Alaska? Alaska has a lot of Mariners fans, but the Red Sox and Yankees have a loyal following.

“A popular team like the Yankees has a huge presence in the New York area,” the Facebook entry on the findings says, “but its presence is felt all over the country and indeed the world. ┬áThe ‘Red Sox diaspora,’ despite being from a much smaller city, are also spread all over the country.”

As you might expect, the Braves (the Cobb Country Braves, as we have taken to calling them), dominate the Georgia fan base, but their loyalties extend well to the west and northeast, much as the Rangers dominate nearly all of Texas, except for the ZIP codes surrounding Houston.

We would have thought that the Cubs would have a loyal national following, but that’s not the case. But they dominate Chicago — except for the area around U.S. Cellular Field (on the South Side)) which then trails off into parts of northwest Indiana. But Chicago is, essentially “Wrigleyville.”

The New York Times says that California’s baseball loyalties reflect a group of “city states” — with the area divided by team loyalties based strictly on metropolitan areas. That’s right, but Angels and Padres’ fans are surrounded by the more popular Dodgers and Giants — who have been around longer (even in California) and have won more national championships.

Screen Shot 2014-04-29 at 9.44.46 AM