July 27, 2009

Nick Cafardo has valuable league insights, even though he’s from Boston and writes for The Globe. “The Yankees overtook the Red Sox for first place in the American League East last week, beating up on the Orioles and A’s. What could still doom the Yankees is their streaky nature and the age of some of their key players. But Hideki Matsui, likely in his final season with the Yankees, is hitting well and in the clutch. Johnny Damon has had a superb season and is finishing up a four-year, $52 million deal, of which he was worth every penny. And Alex Rodriguez turns 34 tomorrow and has shrugged off hip surgery to hit 19 homers.
The Steinbrenners wowed free agents CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and Mark Teixeira in the off season, and can decide over the next few days whether they will add to their team before the trading deadline, or whether general manager Brian Cashman believes the Yankees already have enough to win it all. Cashman does not want to give up his best prospects for Roy Halladay, but if you’re a Red Sox fan you have to have an uneasy feeling that the Yankees might get in at the last minute, as they did with Damon and Teixeira.
“I think we have a good enough team to win with what we have right now,’’ Damon wrote in a text message. “We find a way to win games. We come back a lot. There’s no giving up on this team. It reminds me of the team I was on in 2004 with the Red Sox.’’
The only downers are that Chien-Ming Wang has given them nothing, and they are 0-8 against the Red Sox this season, to which Derek Jeter responded, “Nothing we can do about that now.’’
Sabathia, Burnett, Andy Pettitte, and Joba Chamberlain are pitching well. Phil Hughes has become the eighth-inning bridge to Mariano Rivera. Catcher Jorge Posada can still hit when it counts. And Melky Cabrera, Robinson Cano, and Nick Swisher are having good years complementing the stars.
The Yankees are 22-5 over their last 27 games and have registered nine walk off victories, as many as they did in 2008.
“We still haven’t played our best ball,’’ Teixeira said. “The great thing about this team is that we have improvements to make and we’re all trying to get better as a team. I sensed really early in spring training that this team will stick together.’’
Conversely, everything in Queens has gone haywire. It’s hard to blame anyone for the injuries to Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes, J.J. Putz, and Carlos Delgado. Bad enough it’s the third year of this black hole, but now come the antics of vice president of player development Tony Bernazard, who reportedly took off his shirt
recently and challenged the Mets’ double-A players to a fight.
The Mets did not respond until the story became public, which makes one wonder what is going on in the organization. There needs to be someone with a high baseball IQ who can be the president of baseball operations and who can oversee GM Omar Minaya and Bernazard.
The Mets say they are investigating the Bernazard incident, but Francisco Rodriguez told the New York Post’s Bart Hubbuch he had a run-in with Bernazard on a team bus last week. Another player told the paper, “That guy is crazy. No one likes him.’’ An ex-player said to this reporter, “That clubhouse has always been fragmented. It starts with the people in charge.’’
The Mets built a nice ballpark, but unfortunately they didn’t take into consideration that their franchise player – David Wright – can’t reach the left-field wall. If they built the ballpark for pitching, they have very little of it. Nor do they have the prospects to augment their player needs. Minaya certainly made good deals for Johan Santana and Rodriguez, and while some fans are calling for Minaya’s head, that’s probably not going to happen. The organization has to decide whether to rip it up and start over or build around Wright, Beltran, Reyes, Santana, and Rodriguez.
The owners, the Wilpon family, lost a reported $700 million in the Bernard Madoff Ponzi scheme, which may have tied Minaya’s hands. Did it prevent him from signing Manny Ramírez, from making a bid for Teixeira? And is the Wilpons’ recent vote of confidence for Minaya a sign they know they tied their GM’s hands?
A bigger disaster are the Padres as a result of their ownership mess, which was finally resolved in part when Jeff Moorad was named the new chief executive officer. John Moores is still in the picture as chairman but will gradually go away. When Moorad finally gets his entire group in, he’s not expected to be a deep-pockets owner, either. With not much going on in their farm system, the Padres can likely expect a few more years of doormat status, but no worries, their new promotion of Sunday breakfast on the field at Petco Park should keep the fans coming, right?
Any time an owner has to sell, which is the case in Texas with Tom Hicks, it’s a scary proposition. It appears they’re somewhat hamstrung nearing the trading deadline, unable to add payroll. The Pirates are in Year 17 of their rebuilding program and continue to trade away veterans for second-tier minor leaguers, but they are signing their draft picks. The Diamondbacks haven’t seemed to recover from Brandon Webb’s injury, and their homegrown philosophy didn’t work this
With Matt Holliday gone to the Cardinals to add much-needed protection for Albert Pujols, one of the major dominoes has fallen. Now, what’s next? The Rays, Twins, Phillies, Dodgers, Angels, Red Sox, and Yankees could all be major players this week. Among the sellers could be the Indians, who keep fielding offers for Victor Martinez from Boston, Tampa Bay, and San Francisco, but they aren’t inclined to deal unless a team’s best prospects are included.
Besides Roy Halladay, other prize pitchers who could be pried away include Scott Kazmir (the Rays finally realize he’s never going to be a No. 1), Cliff Lee
(it will take a blockbuster package), Jarrod Washburn (if the Mariners decide they’re not going to contend), Erik Bedard (proceed with caution), and George Sherrill (a great find for anyone seeking a lefthanded reliever), while hitters Aubrey Huff and Kevin Millar could be had.
The Red Sox will dip into the Halladay stakes if the price comes down at the end. Otherwise they will look for a righthanded bat who can play the outfield, given they’re a little short with only Rocco Baldelli as a spare, while Nick Green could also be spotted out there.”


From Dwight Perry:
“Claude Smith, the 1941 All-American Soap Box Derby champ, wasn’t chagrined to lose the ceremonial Oil Can Derby — which also included racers aged 91 and 89 — preceding the 72nd annual event in Akron, Ohio.
As Smith, 82, told AP: “My biggest thrill today was being called the kid in our race.”
• Minnesota senior associate AD Tom Wistrcill, to the St. Paul Pioneer Press, on the Daktronics video scoreboard in the Gophers’ new football stadium: “It’s just like a high-definition television you would have in your house, except that it’s as big as your house.”
• David Thomas of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, on Rangers pitcher Vicente Padilla, fresh off the swine flu, penciled in to start Tuesday: “Don’t expect any
Tigers players to charge the mound.”
• Brian Smith, to The Washington Post, on being a Washington Nationals fan: “OK, it’s $135 I don’t spend on gambling or alcohol. There are worse vices you could have.”
• Rich Shapiro of the New York Daily News, after Alex Rodriguez kissed actress girlfriend Kate Hudson at the Yankees’ annual family picnic: “A-Rod went 0 for 4 Saturday — but he made it to first base anyway.”
So, Delaware wants to legalize gambling on individual sports events?
NFL lawyers, not amused, say take Nevada and give the points.”


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