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Posts Tagged ‘David Ortiz’

There can be no doubt that the American League East is easily the best division in baseball. In fact, this year could wind up being historic in terms of division play, as my projections show 4 of the 5 teams capable of winning 90+ games this season – a feat that’s never been accomplished before. Is the talent level in the East really that much better than the rest of the AL? In a word, YES.

Both the Boston Red Sox and Yankees look to be the class of baseball this year. I project both teams to win 105 games this year and finish tied for the division crown. How evenly matched are the two juggernauts? The projections also have them splitting the season series, 9-9. Many prognosticators are giving the edge to the Red Sox this year, based on their starting rotation of Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, John Lackey, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Clay Buchholz. While the Yankees rotation is known to be unsettled, relying on a return to form by AJ Burnett, Phil Hughes avoiding regression from his 18-8 2010 season, and a collection of rookies and reclamation projects to fill the 4 & 5 spots, the Sox rotation also has question marks. Can Lackey reclaim his form? Can Beckett come back from an injury plagued season? Will Buchholz ever deliver on his promise? Can Matsuzaka come back from injuries and inconsistency? In short, both teams could have excellent rotations – or horrible ones, once you get past the aces. But offensively, both squads are loaded 1 – 9. The Yankees projected line-up of Derek Jeter, Nick SwisherMark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez, Robinson Cano, Jorge Posada, Curtis Granderson, Russell Martin and Brett Gardner may actually be better than the team that led the league in runs scored last season. Boston counters with Carl Crawford, Dustin Pedroia, Adrian Gonzalez, Kevin Youkilis, David Ortiz, JD Drew, Marco Scutaro, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Jacoby Ellsbury. Both line-ups are capable of scoring 1,000 runs. The real differentiators between the teams are in the bullpens and on the bench. The Yanks have a slight edge in the bullpen, with the 1 – 1a tandem of Mariano Rivera and Rafael Soriano. The Sox have a slight edge on the bench.

As for the rest of the division, Tampa Bay suffered some tremendous free-agent losses. Despite that, they come into the season with their only real question being the strength of the bullpen, where the oft-traveled Kyle Farnsworth heads a makeshift relief corps. The additions of Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon, along with new shortstop Reid Brignac and rookie Desmond Jennings, should actually make the offense better. And Tampa’s rotation remains one of the game’s best, led by David Price. But while good enough to win pretty much any other division in the game, this year’s Rays aren’t in the same class as either New York or Boston.

The same goes for the Orioles, although Baltimore may have the most improved team in the league. The infield was completely remade, as Mark Reynolds, Derek Lee and JJ Hardy join Brian Roberts. The O’s also brought in veteran slugger Vladimir Guerrero and closer Kevin Gregg. Add in what looks to be the league’s best young rotation and proven winner (and old friend) Buck Showalter as manager, and Baltimore is poised to shock people the same way Toronto did last year.

As for the Blue Jays, this team lost too much – and replaced those parts with questionable signings – from last year’s overachieving squad to compete this year. They’ve brought in pitching guru John Farrell to lead the team, but this team will suffer from losing Cito Gastons “let-’em-fly” attitude on offense. Include a rookie catcher, changes at 1st, 3rd and all three OF spots and it will prove to be too much turnover to overcome. One bright spot for the Jays this year could be rookie starter Kyle Drabek, one of the game’s more hyped young pitchers.

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The Yankees have been busy since Cliff Lee stunned the baseball world and retreated to the quiet confines of Citizen’s Bank Park, home of those welcoming Philadelphia types. (Unless you happen to be Santa Clause, that is). After devoting the entire offseason plan to signing Lee, you couldn’t really blame Brian Cashman and company if they didn’t have a plan B. But, much to my amazement and joy, they did! And they didn’t waste any time whatsoever in implementing it!

It seems plan B consists of signing every retread and injury-prone player still available. First, they landed their big-name pitcher in Mark Prior. Who cares if Prior hasn’t thrown a ML pitch in 4 years and has a history of shoulder ailments dating back 7 seasons? He was once one of the best right-handed starters in the majors. Then, virtually in tandem with signing Prior, the Yankees swooped in and grabbed C Russell Martin. Who cares if Jesus Montero is waiting in the wings to prove why he’s one of the 5 best prospects in MLB? The Yankees just signed a catcher who lost 1/2 of 2010 to hip surgery; a guy who once was an All-Star for the Dodgers but had played so well over the past three seasons that they flat out released him. To address a leaky bullpen, today the Yanks signed Pedro Feliciano, formerly of the Mets. Ok, so, he’s thrown in a ML leading 408 games over the past 5 years, but he’s only 34. Oh…right.

In defense of the signings, each does bring something positive – Martin does have a history of throwing out runners (2nd best percentage in baseball since he broke in). Prior is one of those low-risk, high-reward types; if he can throw effectively and recapture some of his early magic, he beats anything the Yankees currently have lined up for the end of the rotation. And Feliciano is a lefty-specialist who was put into bad situations over the past two years by Jerry Manuel. Nobody has been better at keeping LH hitters off base over the past three seasons.

But each also brings questions, and not just about durability. Can Martin still move behind the plate to be an effective defensive catcher? And potentially relegating Montero to the bench certainly won’t endear him to many who bleed Pinstripes – after all, we’ve been salivating at the thought of watching him launch moonshots for 3 years now. Will Feliciano be nearly as effective in the AL East, particularly against the likes of Adrian Gonzalez, David Ortiz, Nick Markakis and Carl Crawford?

In the meantime, the biggest questions surrounding the 2011 Yankees have yet to be addressed: starting pitching, a quality set-up reliever, outfield and infield depth.

Plenty of rumours continue to swirl around the team, especially when it comes to starters. Zach GreinkeFausto CarmonaCarlos Zambrano and Felix Hernandez have all been mentioned as potential trade targets. Greinke and Carmona are probably far-fetched possibilities; both have team friendly contracts with teams that are looking to bring in an entire farm system in return. While Jack Zduriencek is known for trading, you can reasonably expect that he’ll want a kings ransom in return for King Felix (after all, he did just win a Cy Young for a last place team). Zambrano may be easier to get, but his temper amy be more destructive than his ability to win 20 games. And of course, we all wait on Andy Pettitte’s decision on whether or not to come back for a 17th season.

Infield rumors were centered on Bill Hall and Jeff Keppinger. There are reports that Hall just signed with Houston, which would seemingly make Keppinger an easier get. But really, is Keppinger that much of an upgrade over Ramiro Pena? Certainly not defensively – and his bat doesn’t make up the difference. As far as RH relievers and OF go, there hasn’t been any action to speak of. On the relief front, time is getting short. With Bobby Jenks, Matt  Guerrier, Jesse Crain, J.J. Putz, Matt Albers, Kerry Wood and Joaquin Benoit already signing elsewhere, there aren’t many proven relievers left on the market. Thus far, nobody has even whispered what the Yankees plan to give their OF some depth. MLBTR has a listing of the available free agents here: there are some intriguing names on the list (including old friends Eric Hinske, Austin Kearns and Johnny Damon).

It’s only December, so Cashman gets an incomplete on this years offseason. But March is coming quickly and the most glaring problems – the ones that sent the Yankees home to watch this year’s World Series – remain, while players who could fill those voids are signing elsewhere. Heck, it was even reported that the Yankees no longer have the game’s highest payroll, a testament not only to Boston’s spending but to Cashman’s not spending.

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Home Run Derby Contestants

Home Run Derby Contestants

Tune into ESPN tonight at 8PM ET to see the 2010 State Farm Home Run Derby. Bobby Abreu won the Home Run Derby back in 2005 at Comerica Park, so I don’t see why Nick Swisher can’t win it today. Abreu’s 162-Game HR average is 21, while Swisher’s is 28. Anything can happen in these competitions. Let’s Go Swisher!

Sam Borden at The LoHud Yankees Blog breaks down the history of Yankees who competed in the derby over the years. Be sure to check it out.

Back, back, back, back, back… Gone!

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Baseball players have been known to have their own superstitious ways when it comes to getting the best production out of themselves on the ball field. These players get stuck in these ridiculous routines and they keep it the same when things are going good for them. Can you imagine if people in other professions were as superstitious as baseball players? Like, your boss would insist you wear a purple thong for board meetings? I don’t know, call them stupid..but I happen to enjoy these stories and I find them very interesting.

1) The Curse of the Bambino was a superstition that fans had for the failure of the Boston Red Sox not winning the World Series in the 86-year period from 1918 until 2004. The curse was said to have begun after the Red Sox sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees. The curse ended in 2004, when the Red Sox came back from a 0-3 deficit in a best-of-seven series to beat the Yankees in the ’04 ALCS.

2) Jason Giambi wears a golden thong when he’s desperate to get out of a big slump. the thong was given to him by a company as a joke, but he’s been using it ever since 1996 when he was with the Oakland Athletics. “It works every time,” Giambi told the Daily News. Giambi claimed he hung his thong in the lockers of teammates Bernie Williams, Robin Ventura and Robinson Cano when they had trouble generating runs. Derek Jeter and Johnny Damon also wore his golden thong. “The News showed its support for the sagging Yankees by delivering 26 golden thongs to the clubhouse – one for every player on the team and manager Joe Girardi.” He also didn’t shave for a couple of days during the 2008 season, and decided to grow a mustache. He wound up going on a major hitting streak and he kept it. The Yankees had “Jason Giambi Mustache Day” at Yankee stadium back in 2008. They gave away replica mustaches to the first 20,000 fans.

3) Wade Boggs was famously known for eating chicken before every game. He famously became known as the “chicken man.” He was also known for the very precise schedule he kept. He woke up and took batting practice at the same time everyday. Boggs took exactly 100 ground balls in practice. Although Boggs was not Jewish, he also drew the Hebrew word “Chai”, meaning “life”, in the batter’s box before each at-bat. He did it in hope for good luck, and in hope that he wouldn’t jinx himself or his team. (more…)

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Remember this? Surely, every Yankees fan does. Everyone knows the story, a bitter construction worker who was working on the new Yankees Stadium buried a David Ortiz jersey (pictured to the right) in hope that it would ‘jinx’ the Yankees. Luckily for the Yankees, the curse never took and when the Yankees claimed World Series #27 the victory negated any thought of a curse being placed on the new stadium. Now, if the Yankees hadn’t won the World Series or the ALCS, how much do you think this incident would have been brought up?

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     Joba Chamberlain has stated that the Yankees are the team to beat. They haven’t won the world series in the past eight years and missed out on the postseason last year, but I agree with him. I believe they have the best rotation, lineup, and closer in the AL East. They definitely will have competition, but with the Yankees big off-season moves..they are the best team on paper.

“We’re always the team to beat, and we have that in our minds from the get-go,” Chamberlain said yesterday. “With the year the Rays had, people are going to look at it that they’re the team to beat. But . . . we’re always going to be the hunted just because of who we are and . . . we always go with the mindset that we are the best and that’s the way you have to play.”

Chamberlain said he had not spoken to Alex Rodriguez recently. But he called A-Rod “one of the greatest players ever to play” and said of his tainted teammate, “He’s always going to be there, and he’s always going to be a friend forever, so you look at it that way.”

“Everybody makes mistakes, but you also understand it’s about being a man and being a grown person, about admitting faults, admitting mistakes,” he said. “You just have to admit it and move on. You become a better person for it, and I’ve become a better person for everything that I’ve gone through.”

“I did the same exercises and I added a couple. It wasn’t fun all the time, but it definitely got the job done,” he said. “I feel great. Probably feel a lot better than I usually have.”

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2009 Preseason Not Top 30 Prospects / David Ortiz Had to Have Taken Steroids? / Cashman on A-Rod, and Missing Yankee Numbers 

Early camp roundup / More Joe Girardi audio

Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez sound very much A-like 

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