Saturday, October 6, 2007

Yanks in 2-0 Hole or Grave

Oct. 6, 2007
By Anthony Tripicchio

It has been done before, it can be done again.

This is the message Joe Torre must be preaching to his beleaguered team who return to New York for an elimination game against Cleveland on Sunday. The Yankees came back from a 2-0 deficit to win the 2001 ALDS against Oakland and find themselves in the same predicament this year.

Sunday’s start by Roger Clemens will determine whether or not his signing was worth all of $27 million for 19 appearances. Clemens is not here for the regular season, he’s here for the playoffs. He doesn’t even have to duplicate the masterful 6 1/3 scoreless innings thrown by his buddy Andy Pettitte on Friday night. Six quality innings of two run ball will suffice.

If he can’t do that, the Rocket Re-Launch was a miserable failure.

Regardless of the fact that Pettitte signed as a free agent in the offseason, he is not a mercenary like Clemens. He’s a true Yankee and he proved it again with a fearless performance in a pressure-packed Game 2. Granted, it didn’t equate to a win but it was a game marred by a late-inning bug infestation that visibly affected young flamethrower Joba Chamberlain who surrendered Pettitte’s 1-0 lead in the 8th.

By the way, it’s not unprecedented for a game to be delayed by bugs. There was a 35 minute delay at SkyDome on Aug. 27, 1990 when a swarm of bugs flew in.

The bugs were only a serious factor in the 8th inning on Friday night and the game would have been better served by waiting for the insects to leave. If you can delay a game for rain or snow, you should absolutely delay it for that type of chaos.

Fausto Carmona, Cleveland’s nasty sinkerballer, wasn’t derailed by the cluster of midges. He was outstanding in nine innings, making only one mistake to Melky Cabrera.

According to his teammate Ryan Garko, Carmona has dealt with bugs much worse than that in his winter ball experience. They didn’t teach that to Chamberlain in Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes Barre.

Certainly, the Yankee bats will need to provide Clemens with more than one run if they hope to avoid a sweep.

A sweep, as improbable as it seems, would prompt a major facelift in the Bronx. Casualties could include Joe Torre, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte, Roger Clemens, and Alex Rodriguez, all of whom could be free agents at year’s end. Of course, the Yankees would like to bring back Rivera, Pettitte, and Posada but the others remain to be seen. Rodriguez will need to hit like he did all year for the rest of the series in order for The Boss to pony up $300 million to resign the lightning rod. An 0-for the series would buy A-Rod a one-way ticket out of town, assuming he opts out of his current deal.

We can go on and on about how murderous the Yankee lineup is, but every postseason one truth remains: You win with pitching.

Luckily for the Yankees, Jake Westbrook and Paul Byrd will take the hill in games three and four for the Indians. Those guys are not frontline starters, and if they impersonate them in those games we know what took place.

The Yankees' big lineup came up small again.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Justice Served Cold by Goodell

Sept. 14, 2007
By Anthony Tripicchio

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell refuses to tolerate inappropriate behavior, whether it’s on the football field or off of it. Bill Belichick is the latest person to realize that the hard way.

In the wake of last Sunday’s evidence that the Patriots videotaped defensive signals from the Jets’ sideline, Goodell fined Belichick the maximum amount of $500,000 and the Patriots organization $250,000. In addition, the Patriots will forfeit their 2008 first round pick if they qualify for the playoffs or their second and third round picks if they do not.

Belichick’s actions were inexplicable and it’s refreshing that such a severe penalty condemned his behavior. The elaborate spying didn’t affect the outcome of Sunday’s game against the Jets since New England dominated every facet, but it has no place in the sport. There is no way to tell how often Belichick spied in the past or how many wins it might have meant. It does raise a lot of questions, however.

The Patriots have the best team in football and yet Belichick, the best coach in the game, still cheated? His ego is out of control. Attempting this tomfoolery against your arch rival and your former defensive coordinator is not only ludicrous, it’s stupid. Confounding matters, the Patriots had been warned by the league about ceasing this activity in the past.

Did he honestly believe he would get away with it?

He got caught red-handed and now Belichick has cost his team a first round pick as a result; not to mention his wallet is a lot lighter now. Barring catastrophic injury, there’s no way the Patriots will miss the playoffs. Belichick is fortunate that the Pats will have San Francisco’s first round pick which will certainly be higher than the pick they forfeit. San Francisco’s pick should be anywhere from the high teens to the low 20s, whereas the Patriots forfeited pick will be high 20s to low 30s. Also, the Pats have stock-piled first day picks in the 2008 draft so that should further soften the blow.

Despite the fact that the Patriots will continue to be an NFL Super Power even without their first round draft pick, the punishment handed down by Goodell fit the crime. Many had speculated that Belichick would be suspended on top of the fine, but no one in the right mind can believe that he would be devoid of contact with his team for that time period. Belichick would find a way to communicate orders to his team by an underground railroad if necessary. Plus, the loss of a first round draft pick will have a longer lasting impact on the team than a short-term suspension would.

Although Belichick was formally chastised by the league, perhaps the biggest punishment is the embarrassment he will continue to suffer from the episode. His coaching fraternity has disapproved of his deplorable behavior including such brand names as Bill Parcells, Dan Reeves, and Tony Dungy.

The true great coaches don’t need to cross moral boundaries to win football games. Sadly, Belichick doesn’t need to either.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Belichick Rips Rhodes

Sept. 1, 2007
By Anthony Tripicchio

Bill Belichick despises the Jets. In the latest manifestation of his blind hatred, the future Hall of Fame head coach blasts Kerry Rhodes.

Citing Peter King’s rankings of the top 500 players in football, a reporter asked Belichick about his opinion of Rhodes and Jason Peters being ranked 29 and 39 respectively.

“Neither of those guys could make my team,” Belichick said.

Eric Mangini has to be happy with Rhodes’ reaction to the critical comment.

Rhodes, refusing to take the bait, laughed and said “No comment on that one.”

“That’s funny though,” he said. “Everyone is entitled to their opinion.”

Belichick’s dig at Rhodes is atypical of him, at least through the media. New England’s leader is usually cryptic and indirect with the media, but this episode could provide the Jets with additional motivation to slay the longtime Beast of the AFC East.

The timing of the remark is questionable, since New England safety Rodney Harrison was just suspended by the NFL for the first four games of the season due to his admittance of HGH usage. In reality, Rhodes would easily make Belichick’s team and be one of their better players in the secondary.

It’s time to for Belichick to let his grudges go. He’s always been bitter about how his relationship with the Jets ended when it’s the Jets who should be upset about it. He’s the one who resigned as “HC of the NYJ” just days after accepting the position.

Most recently, he harbors hostility towards Mangini for leaving the Pats to take the head coaching job with the Jets, against his advice.

Sorry Bill, some people actually want to coach in New York.

With the Patriots coming to the Meadowlands on Sept. 9 to open the season, we could have an all out war on our hands.

Keep your eyes on number 25 for the Jets. His game will tell you how this story ends and which team gets a leg up in the fight for the AFC East.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Yankees Salvage Final Game in L.A.

Aug. 23, 2007
By Anthony Tripicchio

Angels are supposed to be from heaven, but the Yankees swear they are from hell.

After losing the first two games of the series, New York avoided the sweep last night and beat the L.A. Angels in Anaheim 8-2.

If you have a cold you take a dose of penicillin, but if you’re on a losing streak the doctor prescribes Andy Pettitte.
Pettitte made his latest house call against Angels’ ace John Lackey and pitched seven crisp innings of one-run ball. Improving to 11-7 with a 3.67 ERA, Pettitte is easily the most reliable starter on the Yankees’ staff. He’s 7-1 in his last nine starts and it seems he is always on the mound when the Yanks are desperate for a win.

Lackey pitched well himself as he matched Pettitte through six innings until the Yankees ultimately broke through against him in the 7th and 8th innings.
Melky Cabrera and Derek Jeter each had RBI singles in the 7th to recapture the lead 3-1. The Yankees 8th inning eruption put the game out of reach. Jorge Posada continued his magical season with a 3-4 night, two doubles and 2 RBI. Robinson Cano and Hideki Matsui also had three-hit nights.

The win moves Joe Torre to second on the Yankees’ franchise list for managerial victories with 1150. Torre surpassed Casey Stengel and now trails Joe McCarthy by 310 wins for a share of the top spot.

Since the Yankees are no strangers to dynasties, it’s surprising that Torre stands in such scarcely populated territory. In modern day baseball, it’s exceedingly difficult for a manager to have any type of longevity with one particular team. Torre’s tenure is marked by stability and class. He should be commended for a tremendous 12-year run in the most demanding market in the game.

Although he may not want to manage too many more years, Torre has to be tempted by the young pitching crop he’s witnessing. Joba Chamberlain, most notably, is a flamethrower with stunning mound presence. Chamberlain added to his mind-boggling numbers last night as he struck out the side (including Vlad Guerrero and Orlando Cabrera) in the 8th inning while allowing just one hit. His fastball lights up the radar gun as he routinely hits 96-98 MPH, but his slider is even more devastating. No one has come close to touching Chamberlain’s slider yet and the Yankees are giddy about the possibilities for his future.

Next year the Yankees’ rotation will potentially include Chamberlain, Phil Hughes, and Ian Kennedy who all appear to play prominent roles in the franchise’s future. If Chamberlain continues to be lights out in the bullpen, he could be considered as the eventual replacement for closer Mariano Rivera. The Yankees, however, see Chamberlain as a starter as he was for the majority of the year in the minors.

Despite the future’s promise, the present is the concern. The Yanks are now five games behind first place Boston and are 1 ½ games out of the wildcard. With over a month remaining in the regular season, there is time to erase both deficits. A win a day will keep the coroner away.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Knicks Reel in Randolph

July 2, 2007
By Anthony Tripicchio

There are two sides to every story. The Knicks acquisition of forward Zach Randolph is no different.

For you NBA fans that have been living under a rock since Thursday, the Knicks landed Randolph, Fred Jones, and Dan Dickau for Channing Frye and Steve Francis on draft night. They also obtained the rights to Demetrius Nichols for their 2nd rounder next year.

First, lets look at the deal on the court. Offensively, Randolph adds an important dimension to the Knicks’ offensive arsenal. He can score with a mid-range jumper and in the paint. More significantly, Randolph is a 25-year-old bonafide low-post presence. Most teams in the NBA are scouring earth for one big man who can score on the block and Randolph gives the Knicks two when you couple him with Eddy Curry. He also rebounds which is a necessity for any power forward you play on this team since Curry doesn’t.

On the defensive end, the deal isn’t as promising. Randolph is not a shot blocker and never will be. He has a reputation for being lazy and he isn’t the athlete that Isiah usually covets. Critics of the trade will knock the Knicks’ overall team defense, which is certainly justified, but Frye is no defensive force himself. Randolph doesn’t help the team defense at all, but shouldn’t exacerbate it either. Portland played a lot of zones to hide their defensive deficiencies last year so Randolph should fit right in to Thomas' man to man that prominently displays all of the Knicks' vulnerabilities. The Knicks hope Randolph's prolific offensive game will mask some of his defensive inadequacies.

To be honest, no Knick fan should be upset with losing Frye or Francis. Frye regressed in his sophomore campaign and Francis was incompatible with Stephon Marbury. If there was no salary cap and Randolph was a model citizen, you would think Isiah took a page out of Marty McFly’s book to fool Portland into taking these two flawed players. “Hey Kevin Pritchard,” Isiah would say. “What the hell is that?” Then he would throw a right hook at him, and take Randolph from him while he was dazed on the ground.

Unfortunately, we know why McFly’s technique was not applicable in this case. Randolph was available for two reasons. First, he’s got four years and $61 million left on his contract. Second, Randolph has a rap sheet long enough to impress Pacman Jones. Portland says they want to clear the way for Greg Oden and LaMarcus Aldridge, but if Randolph was devoid of the aforementioned characteristics, he would still be a Trail Blazer.

His contract situation is relevant to the Knicks because, for the first time in seemingly three centuries, the Knicks would have been under the cap in 2009 before this trade was agreed upon. Now that the deal is done, the Knicks will be under the cap around the same time Lindsay Lohan trades in her acting career to become a rocket-scientist. We may never see it in our lifetimes. With that reality comes the cruel fact that the Knicks will never be able to sign a true superstar like Kobe Bryant when he is a free agent in 2009.

Randolph found trouble in Portland, so you can bet that trouble will find him in New York City. Isiah will try to convince Randolph that the art in New York’s museums is far more enticing than that of the pole dancing one would observe at Scores. I’m not sure Randolph will agree.

If the team meshes on the court and Isiah can baby-sit Randolph, the Knicks are going to be a top five team in the Eastern Conference next year with room for growth in the future. If not, all Thomas did was bury the Knicks further into oblivion. Randolph better be worth it, or it’s Isiah’s head.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Off-Season of Dreams

June 20, 2007
By Anthony Tripicchio

The NBA is a league which requires superstars to win titles. More so than any of the other major sports, if you don’t have a dominant player in the NBA, you aren’t going to win a championship.

The Spurs have Duncan, the Heat had Wade and Shaq, and the Lakers had Shaq and Kobe. Unless you’re the Pistons, (who only won one title and won’t win another with their current nucleus) star power is the formula that equates to championships in the NBA.

That brings me to a team with plenty of superstar contracts, but no superstar players. Of course, it’s the New York Knicks. The Knicks haven’t sniffed a title since Patrick Ewing was shipped out of town and they won’t until they bring in a superstar that can fill his Grand Canyon sized void. With Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett both potentially available, it’s enough to make a Knick fan dream.

Realistically, the chances of the Knicks landing either star are exceptionally slim but Isiah Thomas will most certainly throw his hat in each of the sweepstakes. There should be a phone line in Madison Square Garden connected to GM Mitch Kupchak in L.A. throughout the summer. Bryant and Garnett are rare breeds and players of their caliber come along about as often as a lunar eclipse.

Bryant is a better offensive talent than Michael Jordan. He can do everything Jordan could do on the floor and he’s a better long-range shooter. Obviously, Jordan is the better player because of his unmatched desire to win, all-world defense, and automatic mid-range jumper, but when you can say that an aspect of someone’s game is better than the greatest to ever play, that is impressive.

Despite Bryant’s incessant demands to be dealt, it sounds like Garnett is more of a lock to be traded. He can become a free agent after next year, and Minnesota wants to get something for him while they can. Isiah Thomas shouldn’t wait around for Kobe to be put on the market because the odds are that the Knicks won’t get him anyway. His focus should be to bring either of the superstars to the Big Apple as soon as possible.

The Knicks would present a package of Channing Frye, David Lee, and Jamal Crawford to initiate discussions in any deal for Garnett or Bryant. Thomas has made it clear that Eddy Curry is untouchable and that stance may hinder his ability to get a deal done. Regardless, the Knicks’ bargaining chips are less attractive than Chicago has to offer. Bulls GM John Paxson has repeatedly denied having talks with the Lakers about Bryant, though. If he doesn’t want to break up his young corps or the Lakers ask for too much, Kobe could be headed to New York based on the assumption that L.A. doesn’t want to trade him to a Western Conference rival.

With the best draft in recent memory upcoming in less than a week, the off-season is just starting to heat up. We might see some fireworks before the fourth of July this year.

Friday, June 1, 2007

The New York A-Rods

June 1, 2007
By Anthony Tripicchio

Alex Rodriguez is always in the spotlight.

Whether he’s amassing monumental numbers, tanning in Central Park, or gallivanting around North America with strippers, Rodriguez is always a topic of conversation. In New York, you’d think the Yankees never existed before A-God’s arrival.

The Yankees are the most storied franchise in sports. Somehow, they managed to win 26 championships prior to the acquisition of Rodriguez and they’ll win more after he’s gone.

Rodriguez obviously shouldn’t be the scapegoat for the Yankees’ current stay in the basement of the AL East. At the same time, he needs to be accountable for his actions. This team can’t be focused on winning when there is a new A-Rod distraction everyday.

The more you hear about Rodriguez, the harder it is to like the guy. He stayed at a different hotel than the rest of the team in Toronto, recently flew to Vegas on an off-day with his stripper companion, and continues to show a penchant for the occasional unsportsmanlike play on the field. He likes calling for pop-ups more when he’s running the bases than when he’s actually in the field.

The worst part about this whole situation is that we all should be praising Rodriguez for a tremendous start to the 2007 season. Instead, we’re consumed with the negatives. What you do in your private life is your own business as long as it’s legal, but keep it away from the public eye. PLEASE.

Derek Jeter is never caught in these compromising situations and he’s been here three times longer than Rodriguez. Then again, Jeter is the perfect Yankee, which Rodriguez has never been and never will be. Rodriguez is exactly the type of high maintenance superstar that the Yankees need to move away from to reestablish the dynasty years of the late 90s.

Of course, the Yankees had dynasties with high maintenance superstars in the past. Two guys named Ruth and Mantle also fit into that category with A-God. The difference is the media’s transformation from then to now. Then, the media was more than willing to protect the irresponsible stars they covered. It was commonplace for sportswriters to go out for a beer with players after the game in the old days. You’ll see flying cars before you see that today.

The Yankees and A-God are about to take on the Red Sox again tonight, whether they are ready or not. It’s time to put the nonsense aside and just play baseball. You know there are serious problems when the archrival GM is feeling sorry for you, though.

“Cash and the Yankees are going through what we went through last August - it's no fun," Theo Epstein told the NY Daily News. “When injuries and circumstances come together and give you short-term bad results, it creates a lot of distractions. You have to feel sympathy for someone in his position."

Enough distractions. So far this year, Rodriguez has responded to all of his critics with his bat. It’s time to do it again this weekend.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Yankees' Notes

May 25, 2007
By Anthony Tripicchio

Derek Jeter is incredible. Last year, he was MVP worthy, but he’s been even better this season. Jeter’s improved on his average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage from last year and his strikeouts are down. He recently passed Joe DiMaggio for fifth on the all-time Yankees’ hit list and he’s on pace to be first in three years. Build his monument now.

Micah Owings (3-1, 4.10 ERA) notched a complete game win against Houston in his last start, the best of his young career. Who is Owings you ask? Owings is the pitching prospect that GM Brian Cashman should have acquired in the Randy Johnson deal instead of Ross Ohlendorf. Ohlendorf is currently 1-3 with a 5.19 ERA in AAA Scranton.

Cashman has proven, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that he has no clue about pitching. His long list of pitching futility is scary: Jeff Weaver, Kevin Brown, Steve Karsay, Carl Pavano, Kei Igawa, and Jaret Wright to name a few. Those moves alone would have cost most GMs their jobs by now, but not Cashman. The Boss is on the right track. Brian Cashman should be gone, not Joe Torre.

Carl Pavano’s heist is complete. After official word that the fragile right-hander will have Tommy John surgery on his elbow, he will in all likelihood, never throw another pitch for the Yankees. Pavano successfully swindled $40 million out of the Yankees for 19 games.

The fact that other teams were bidding on Pavano doesn’t excuse the Yankees from signing him. Pavano was injury-riddled for years prior to his two healthy years in Florida. In fact, those two years mark his only seasons in which he threw 200 innings or more. At the conclusion of those years, Pavano still had only won 10 games or more twice. Four years and $40 million later, the Yankees have an expensive arm on their shelf. It should lead to a GM on the chopping block too.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Yankees Avert Disaster

May 24, 2007
By Anthony Tripicchio

Put your white flags away…for now.

The Yankees did what they had to do: they took two out of three from first place Boston in their latest series. It wasn’t always pretty, but the Yankees took advantage of favorable pitching matchups.

Both Chien-Ming Wang and Andy Pettitte gave them quality starts and, for a change, they won both games. Pettitte, who must be scratching his head with only three wins to show for a 2.66 ERA, pitched particularly well in a pressure packed rubber game of the series. He got the toughest draw of the three games in Curt Schilling, but still cruised to an 8-3 victory.

On paper, Mike Mussina versus converted reliever Julian Taverez seemed like a sure thing for the Yanks on Tuesday night. It didn’t turn out that way. If it had, they would have swept the Red Sox and put a dent in the deficit. They only delivered a ding with two out of three.

The only alarming sight of the series, for New York, was Mussina as they began to scale the mountain of a deficit in the division (which has now been trimmed to 9 ½ games). Mussina hasn’t helped them climb that mountain thus far and didn’t on Tuesday night either.

"I don't feel like I know what I'm doing or where the ball is going that much," Mussina told the New York Post. "It's frustrating when you don't feel like you know what you're doing out there, and that's a bad thing."

It’s a bad thing all right. Mussina is usually a joy to watch pitch because he works quickly, throws strikes, and paints the corners. Lately, he’s had no movement on his off-speed pitches and his fastball doesn’t have the velocity to get big league hitters out consistently. He’s quickly becoming another guy that will tax the bullpen with his short starts. Roger Clemens and Phil Hughes will be members of that club when they arrive for different reasons; Clemens because of his advanced age and Hughes due to pitch counts which will keep him on a short leash. At first sight of a hangnail, Hughes especially will be lifted from any game. You can attribute Mussina’s brief outings to ineffectiveness, however.

The 38-year-old control pitcher has been rocked in his last two starts and now sports a hefty 6.52 ERA for the year. He’s averaging less than five innings per start and opponents are batting .313 against him. Mussina’s struggles are a surprise after such a solid 2006 season, but he’s someone to watch closely over the next two months.

We were already watching the sleeping bats last week. Scoring 30 runs over the past five games, it’s safe to say that the bats have awoken from their slumber. Namely, Robinson Cano and Hideki Matsui came alive to make contributions to a desperate lineup. Cano was 5-11 with three runs scored in the series and Matsui had a vital two-run-homer off of Schilling on Wednesday to propel the Yankees to an early 3-0 lead.

After the three game set at Fenway to kickoff June, the Yankees won’t see the Red Sox until late August. Some winning baseball in between now and then will chip away at Boston’s lead. Don’t wave those white flags just yet.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Baseball Banter

May 21, 2007
By Anthony Tripicchio

One of the great aspects of baseball is the fact that there is always somebody you’ve never heard of ready to burst onto the scene. These are a few guys who are making names for themselves this season:

1. JJ Hardy, SS, Milwaukee (.320, 14 HR, 41 RBI). I’m sorry Mets' fans, but Hardy has been the best shortstop in the NL this season. Easily the biggest shock of the 2007 campaign, Hardy has exploded onto the scene after two ho-hum seasons. He’s the main reason behind the Brewers’ turnaround and should (but won’t) start the All-Star game.

2. James Shields, SP, Tampa Bay (3-0, 2.94 ERA). And you thought Scott Kazmir
was the only pitcher you needed to know on Tampa Bay. Well, let me introduce you to James Shields. The 25-year-old right hander has 62 strikeouts in 67 1/3 IP and a miniscule WHIP of .92. When all is said and done, he might have a better career than Kazmir. Either way, Tampa Bay has two excellent young starters at the top of its rotation.

3. BJ Upton, 2B, Tampa Bay (.309, 7 HR, 25 RBI). Two Devil Rays in a row? This must be a typo. A highly touted prospect drafted out of high school, Upton struggled in parts of two seasons in the majors. This year he’s made the most of getting regular playing time and is one of several talented youngsters in the Devil Rays’ lineup. His strikeout numbers, however, are worrisome with 54 in only 139 at bats. Still, Upton is a guy you’ll be seeing in the All-Star game sooner than later.

4. Jack Cust, DH, Oakland (.306, 8 HR, 20 RBI). Talk about a grand entrance. Acquired from San Diego less than three weeks ago, Cust was called up and has belted eight homers in 49 at bats. Now 28, Cust languished in the minor leagues for several years as he routinely hit 20 homers or more in five seasons. His problem was his lack of a position. He now DHs and hits cleanup in the A’s lineup. This guy doesn’t look like Roy Hobbs, but he sure hits like him.

5. Jhonny Peralta, SS, Cleveland (.275, 10 HR, 31 RBI). Peralta had his breakout year in 2005, but followed it up with a miserable 2006. Now he’s rebounded and is on pace for his best season in 2007. Although he’s often lost in the midst of a potent Cleveland lineup, pitchers around the league are beginning to fear him. He’s already a top five shortstop in the AL and by the end of the year, you may slot him in right behind the Yankee Captain as number two.

6. Tom Gorzelanny, SP, Pittsburgh (5-2, 2.43 ERA). Gorzelanny is turning heads in Pittsburgh, that is, if there is anyone watching. He’ll be 25 in July and he’s surpassed Zach Duke as the top lefty on the staff. I was debating between him and teammate Ian Snell, but since Gorzelanny has an extra win and the lower ERA of the two, he gets the nod.

7. Brandon Phillips, 2B, Cincinnati (.292, 8 HR, 25 RBI). For years it seemed like Phillips was a bust, but he finally stepped up last year. Even though Josh Hamilton has stolen his thunder this year, Phillips is establishing himself as a top five second baseman in the NL. Turning 26 in June, Phillips still has time to improve his OBP, which is lower than you’d like for a guy that runs as well as he does.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Slumber Continues for Yankee Bats

May 17, 2007
By Anthony Tripicchio

The Yankee bats are still in bed hitting the snooze button. Joe Torre must feel like he’s dragging a teenager out of bed to get to school in the morning.

No, you can’t have five more minutes if you want to catch the surging Red Sox. Don’t forget your lunch and your Daisuke Matsuzaka scouting report.

With the notable exceptions of Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada, the hitting has been abysmal of late. Even A-God has hit a slide after the third baseman’s immortal April. Logic said that once the pitching got healthy the team would start winning, but the bats have failed to cooperate. Such is the case after a 4-1 defeat to the White Sox today, dropping the Bombers to a paltry 18-21 record.

In all of their last six losses, the Yankees have scored three runs or fewer. A major culprit of the hitting woes, Robinson Cano, is 1-20 with one run scored in those games.

That is unacceptable and so is the rest of Cano’s season thus far (.234, 1 HR, 16 RBI). Cano doesn’t walk, hit for power, run, or field well so when his average is down, he’s not contributing much to the team. His free-swinging nature is diametrically opposed to the Yankees’ ideal of patient hitting during the late 90’s. The kid has never seen a pitch he didn’t like. Now, that may be ok when you’re a slugger or even hitting for the high average that Cano has hit for in the past, but its certainly not when your OBP is .276. The fact is, he’s a one dimensional player and this year he’s been less than that.

The outfield also has to shoulder a large portion of the blame. Hideki Matsui and Bobby Abreu, the corner outfielders, have each started off slowly. Judging by each of their track records, it’s just a matter of time before they hit.

It better be sooner than later for Abreu because the Yankees won’t resign him in the off-season otherwise. Hitting third in the lineup for the majority of the season, Abreu has recently been moved to the leadoff spot. Seven extra-base-hits in 161 ABs isn’t going to get it done as a three hitter. Gary Coleman has more power than that. Abreu’s patience and speed should allow him to be a solid leadoff man once he gets going. If not, he’ll get going to another team.

You can’t expect much more than what Doug Mientkiewicz has given them offensively so far, especially considering this guy was signed for his glove. Johnny Damon and Jason Giambi could be ripe for injury-riddled years as they both have struggled with various ailments. Add all this up and your sum is trouble.

Jeter, Arod, and Posada can’t carry the offense by themselves all year. Posada and Jeter are numbers one and two, respectively, in the AL Batting race and the Yankees are still under .500. The maligned trio of Cano and the corner outfielders has to contribute. Otherwise, they can keep pressing the snooze button until next year.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Mangenius and Mr. T Strike Again

May 14, 2007
By Anthony Tripicchio

For more than three decades, the Jets were synonymous with incompetence and disappointment. Something is finally different in East Rutherford, NJ.

With one improbable playoff appearance already under their belts in their first year at the helm, Eric Mangini and Mike Tannenbaum should have the full confidence of Jets fans everywhere. The duo plans on being here for a long time and the 2007 NFL Draft serves as further evidence.

Though they were overshadowed by the Patriots and Browns on Draft Day, the Jets solidified two positions of need with the selections of Darrelle Revis and David Harris. Revis is regarded by most as the best corner in the draft. Rather than sit back at pick 25 overall, the Jets were proactive and pounced on Revis with a trade to move up to 14. Harris, a linebacker picked in the second round after another trade to move up, was rated as a first round talent on many draft boards. Throw Thomas Jones into the mix and you’ve had yourself an excellent first day at the draft.

They did sacrifice their middle round picks in order to make waves in the first two rounds, but if both Revis and Harris add to the Jets corps, they’re well worth the price. The key to building a winning program is to continue to add young players to the corps, while sprinkling in veterans to show youngsters the way. Mangini and Tannenbaum, more so than any Jets’ brain trust in the last decade, get it.

Lets take a closer look at the recent leaders of this team. Bill Parcells’ three-year tenure with the team was a disappointment. He was 29-19, but you always wondered when he was going to leave town. Parcells’ groceries, with the exception of Curtis Martin, were mostly TV dinners. They looked good and got you through a few meals, but they were quick fixes.

Parcells cleaned up Rich Kotite’s 1-15 mess, but left one of his own. His handpicked successor, Bill Belichick, stayed on as HC of the NYJ for a fraction of Paris Hilton’s jail sentence. Al Groh, another Parcells’ disciple, ran away to Virginia after a late season collapse in 2000, his only year as head coach.

Before Herm Edwards’ five year run as head coach provided the franchise stability, something it desperately needed, the Jets were in disarray. Parcells, although a Hall of Fame coach, always seems to leave teams that way. Bet the farm that Mangini and Tannenbaum’s reign ends dramatically different.

Look at this team. The two anchors of the offensive line, Nick Mangold and D’Brickashaw Ferguson, are ready to start their second years. Injury plagued QB Chad Pennington has Kellen Clemens as competition for the starting job. Laveranaues Coles is showing Jerricho Cotchery the way at WR. Veteran RB Thomas Jones is complemented by a neophyte speed back Leon Washington.

The defensive side of the ball, with its revamped line and tweaked linebackers and secondary, looks ready to rumble. Kenyon Coleman, Andre Wadsworth, and David Bowens were all signed to the line in the offseason. The linebackers and secondary should both see marked improvement with the additions of Harris and Revis.

Mangini and Tannenbaum have their fingerprints all over this team already. Parcells was operating with a corps of players that were here long before he ever took the job. The Jets are nowhere close to the Patriots yet, but Mangini and Tannebuam just turned on the stove. I know I want to stick around for this meal.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Rocket Returns

May 10, 2007
By Anthony Tripicchio

What? Roger Clemens took the most money and signed with the Yankees? That’s about as shocking as Pacman Jones at a strip club.

Lets be serious, no one is surprised that Clemens went to the highest bidder. Sure, $4.5 million per month is asinine, but the Yankees are as desperate as they’ve been during the Joe Torre era. Suddenly, they’re also more compassionate towards Rocket’s family needs as well.

Pssst, Roger. No one cares if you go to Tibet in between starts, as long as you win games. There’s no need to play dumb at the press conference. You knew the clause was in the contract.

As I was saying, the Yankees need Clemens. Even with the top three starters Mike Mussina, Andy Pettitte, and Chien-Ming Wang all healthy, the backend of the rotation is in a constant state of flux. I think I’m next in line to be called up after either Darrell Rasner or Matt DeSalvo passes through the turnstile. And after the Red Sox smoked Roy Halladay last night, they now lead the Yanks by seven full games in mid May. There’s no need to panic yet, but it is cause for concern.

The Yankees need to realize that Clemens isn’t going to come in on his white horse and save the day, though. Granted, he’s one the best pitchers of all-time, but he’s also going to be 45-years-old in August. Judging by the theatrics of last Sunday, the Yankees might be disillusioned enough to think that Clemens can be their knight in shining armor.

I apologize Suzyn Waldman, but your enthusiasm for the moment he returned was borderline scary (here it is for you brave souls who haven't heard it: First, because I didn’t know a human could sound like that, and second because this guy is well past his prime.

Will he contribute? Yes, there’s no doubt that he will, but he won’t be close to the ace of the staff. This is a guy who averaged less than six innings per start last year in the NATIONAL LEAGUE. Throwing to Big Papi instead of the pitcher should jog Clemens’ memory about why his ERA was nearly a run lower after he left the Yankees for Houston in 2004 (3.91 in 03 to 2.98 in 04).

Even when he pitches well there will be nine outs or more left for the bullpen to secure the win. Mariano Rivera has struggled mightily thus far (1-3, 7.71 ERA), and the rest of the pen is begging for a breather. They won’t get it when Clemens is on the mound.

The Yankees are definitely improved with Clemens on the roster, but the team is in grave danger if he needs to be the hero. You can see him galloping in on his horse now, but his armor is faded.