Friday, October 29, 2010

Yankees Put Their Faith In Girardi

There was little drama to the negotiations that led to the three-year contract extension Joe Girardi reportedly agreed to with the Yankees on Thursday.

It kind of makes all the second-half speculation about Girardi's future seem a bit silly in retrospect. I'm not innocent — on more than one occasion I joked that Girardi did postgame interviews this summer while looking over blueprints of Wrigley Field's manager's office.

As it turned out, the rumors tying the manager to his hometown Cubs turned out to be a lot of loose-ended chatter. The Yankees wanted Girardi and Girardi wanted the Yankees. An agreement was inevitable.

I would say "collective shrug" is the best way to describe how the fanbase feels about Girardi's return. Whether it be a little post-Torre hangover or a personality so tightly-wound that Tony Pena is contractually obligated for daily checks of a massive stroke, it's clear Girardi will never be the fan favorite his predecessor was.

Perhaps it's not fair to compare the two. Torre was the ultimate example of right guy, right place, right time. He took the job at a later stage in his life and fully embraced the spotlight — some would say he craved it — and he knew exactly how to handle both the media and George Steinbrenner.

On the strength of four World Series titles in five years, Torre became an icon in New York. He's on the Mount Rushmore of Yankee managers, his bulbous nose carved into stone alongside Miller Huggins, Casey Stengel, and a two-thirds-in-the-bag Billy Martin.

Girardi and Torre are polar opposites in some ways. Where as Torre had to be poked with a stick just to see if he was alive on the bench, Girardi stands firmly at attention, always focused and alert. I don't know if I've ever seen him sitting down.

And while one of Torre's strengths was the easy-going nature in which he handled both streaks and slumps, every loss seems to destroy a little piece of Girardi. By the end of this season he looked like he had been in a POW camp for a decade.

The final three years of the Torre era started to seem like Groundhog Day, with 95-win teams going out quietly in the ALDS. Girardi's first three years have each been distinct.

Year One was all about transition, not just from the managerial sense, but in the bridge from the Giambi/Mussina Era to the Teixeira/Sabathia Era. The Yankees failed to make the postseason for the first time in 13 years in 2008, but Girardi escaped any real blame.

Year Two brought real expectations, and Girardi's job seemed to be in danger when a team buoyed by $400 million in free agent acquisitions was struggling to stay above .500 in June. Luckily for Girardi, the Yankees snapped out of their early funk and started a roll that culminated with a World Series title.

Year Three returned the Yankees to the familiar post-dynasty ground of postseason failure, though I think most fans agree that just getting to Game 6 of the ALCS was a small achievement considering the gaping holes in the roster. Thanks Cash!

That the Yankees gave Girardi three years tells you a lot about the faith they have in him. This could be another difficult transition year, but barring a Spitzer-esque meltdown, the Yankees will put their trust in Girardi to guide them.

And while his in-game managing skills sometimes make you want to beat him over the head with his own beloved binder, there is a reassuring way to how he carries himself. Steady, disciplined, and relentlessly focused. In a time where many aspects of the franchise are up in the air, there's something to be said for that.

Dan Hanzus writes the Yankees blog River & Sunset and can be reached at Follow Dan on Twitter @danhanzus.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Eiland Commission: Getting to the Bottom of a Yankee Conspiracy

Area 51 in Nevada. JFK in Dallas. And now ... Dave Eiland in the Bronx.

The conspiracy theorists are out in full force this week following New York's surprise announcement that Eiland has been let go as pitching coach after a career in the organization.

Every good conspiracy theory is born out the idea that an authority figure is being less that forthcoming. This neatly segues into the "Those bastards are hiding something!" leap in logic.

Enter Brian Cashman, who refused to go into specifics about Eiland's departure, saying only that it was a "private" decision.

Here we go ...

There is a section of Yankee Universe, let's call it a "generous swath," that is completely insane. The majority of the e-mails I receive as a result of writing this blog confirms this.

So I'm sure you can guess I had some interesting theories about Eiland's demise thrown my way.

Here are a few:

"eiland got into fist fight with girardi."

I'm guessing this started when Eiland accidentally spilled coffee on Joe's beloved binder.

"eiland is on drugs."

This would explain why Dwight Gooden was hanging outside the Stadium on opening day.

"you heard Eiland got Fired for Beating the Shit out AJ Burnett during the season because AJ snitched to management that Dave was an alcoholic???"

This would explain ... wow, that's incredible! Definitely my favorite, because if you're a die-hard fan, you should be able to put together all the moving parts in play here.

It goes like this: The "drinking problem" was the reason for Eiland's unexplained hiatus shortly before the All-Star break --> The black eye Burnett sported in September was the result of a scuffle incited when Burnett "snitched" to Cashman about Eiland's love of grandpa's cough medicine. --> Burnett's sharp decline in 2010 was directly tied to the souring of his relationship with the pitching coach.

(In crazed Halloween mad scientist tone) It ... all ... makes ... too much ... SENSE!!!

I can't vouch for any of the theories above, but I can imagine Cashman thought long and hard about how he was going to present this to the public. The easiest route would've been simply to say it was based on performance. After the Yankees' struggles in the ALCS, this likely would've been accepted at face value.

But the fact that Cashman went out of his way to say it wasn't based on the pitching meltdown last week tells you there's something else at play here. He knew saying it was private would raise eyebrows, but he didn't want baseball people around the league to think Eiland was bad at his job, either. Cash, probably out of respect to Eiland, took the lesser of two evils.

As for my theory? Eiland was fully aware Burnett was completely dependent on him to keep his mechanics from going to hell. With his contract up and in need of leverage, Eiland came up with the genius plan to take a leave of absence for "personal reasons", watch with glee as Burnett inevitably went down in flames without him, then return to rescue the $82 million pitcher, thus proving his invaluable nature to the organization. With new contract in hand, he would finally buy that awesome grill he always walks by at Home Depot.

It was the perfect plan, almost too perfect. Only Eiland was gone for too long, and Burnett's suckiness became too strong, too powerful, for even Eiland to control. His master plan foiled, he was vulnerable. That vulnerability led to his dismissal.

Like I said, some Yankee fans are completely insane.

Dan Hanzus writes the Yankees blog River & Sunset and can be reached at Follow Dan on Twitter @danhanzus.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Breaking Down the Future of the Yankees' Core Four

My first weekend without Yankee baseball had me feeling how I imagine Mark Teixeira feels before his postseason at-bats: confused, helpless, and resigned to a fate that cannot be avoided.

The World Series is starting on Wednesday, and I can tell you I'll probably only have a cursory interest in it. Whenever the team that eliminated the Yankees advances to the Fall Classic, I have trouble rooting for anything but horrible things to happen to the American League entrant.

So, instead of sitting in front of my television pulling for recreational drug relapses, I'm going to keep my attention on the Yankees. More specifically, it's time to examine the state of the Core Four.

Ah yes. You've heard of this group, correct? From now until Cliff Lee becomes a free agent, the status of free agents Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, and Mariano Rivera will be the dominant topic regarding the team.

Ultimately, I expect each of the players, including Jorge Posada — who's under contract through 2011 — back in pinstripes come spring time. It's hardly a given though.

Rivera turns 41 in a week, and has always struck me as the type of player who would abruptly retire before being the guy who hung around a year too long. I just can't picture Mo going on the Roger Clemens-patented victory lap tour, can you?

Andy Pettitte was talking like a man ready to hang it up on Friday night, but let's face it, Andy's been saying that stuff since he was 32. I think he's always underestimated how much it means to him to compete. God is great, and so are the wife and kids in Texas, but shutting down the Red Sox on a September afternoon at Fenway Park is a different animal altogether.

And Jeter? Put it this way: It's going to take a major, major catastrophe in communication for Jeter not to re-sign in the next month or so. For how long and for how much is really all there is to debate. That's not to say the negotiations don't have the potential to turn cantankerous. The mediocre nature of Jeter's walk season have made things much more complicated than they would've been had his contract run out a year ago.

Here at River & Sunset, we're all about distilling complicated issues down to a base form that everyone can understand. This is one of the trickiest free agent periods in Yankee history, so let's break down the different ways in which it can play out for the Core Four.


Best-case scenario

Motivated by talk that the Yankees will move on in 2012, Posada re-dedicates himself and has the best season ever by a 38-year-old catcher. Not only is he productive, he is lauded by the front office for his tutelage of uber prospect Jesus Montero, now his backup. The Yankees re-sign him to a one-year deal to become a player/coach in 2012, he retires and becomes Girardi's bench coach in 2013, then ascends to manager later that season when Girardi's binder — now well over 40 pounds in weight by this point — falls from the top of a tall file cabinet and hits him in the head, rendering him a simpleton. His wife, the spectacular Laura Posada, poses for Playboy.

Worst-case scenario

Posada suffers through an injury-plagued 2011, and becomes such a liability behind the plate that he is essentially a designated hitter by July 1. He resents Montero, and chooses not to help him in his adjustment to the big leagues. His relationship with Girardi, already rocky prior to the season, gets physical when the manager asks Posada to take Ramiro Pena's job as official ceremonial first pitch catcher. Laura Posada poses for Playboy, then leaves him for 84-year-old walking corpse Hugh Hefner. Posada moves to Fort Lauderdale and replaces Jim Leyritz as the city's most notable alcoholic ex-Yankee catcher.

Most-probable scenario

Posada gets around 400 at-bats in 2011, hitting 17 homers with 68 RBI. He remains a liability defensively, but the bulk of the work behind the plate goes to Montero anyway, which Posada is fine with, seeing the youngster's potential. The Yankees offer Po a one-year deal in reduced role in 2012, but he opts to retire. At around that time his Hall of Fame credentials will be discussed vociferously, with Mike Francesa giving the hand wave to anyone who doesn't think Posada belongs in Cooperstown. "Yawhhre lawwwwst!" Posada disappears from the public eye for a few years to spend more time with his hot wife and young children in suburban Rockland County, N.Y. He returns as a Yankee coach by the end of the decade.


Best-case scenario

Pettitte signs a one-year deal for $10 million, then never misses a turn through the Yankees' rotation all season. He becomes the oldest left-hander to win 20 games in the modern era. He's once again the team's rock in the October, winning three more starts to build on his own record for postseason victories. After the season, he hems and haws about retirement, then signs his third consecutive one-year deal. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Worst-case scenario

Pettitte retires. He returns to Deer Park, Texas, then quickly realizes how boring it is when you have nothing to do and live in Deer Park, Texas. He shoots a few more Dove "Journey To Comfort" commercials, and when the company discontinues the campaign, he starts making his kids shoot fake commercials of him using the family camcorder. Roger Clemens moves into the guest house and starts eating all the food. The Yankees come calling in July and Pettitte's out the door before Brian Cashman hangs up the phone. Unfortunately, an arm injury derails his comeback. On the back page of the Post, a picture of a crestfallen Andy is accompanied by the headline, "Journey to (Elbow) Discomfort".

Most-probable scenario

Pettitte returns on a one-year deal for $10 million. He has one DL stint for a leg injury of some kind, but still makes 27 starts, winning 14 games. He remains a very capable No. 3 starter, and the team trusts him fully come playoff time. When Posada announces he's not returning, Pettitte takes it as a sign that the time has come for him as well. He retires as one of the winningest pitchers in franchise history. His PED admission keeps him out of the Hall of Fame, but the Yankees retire his number and he joins the YES team as a part-time analyst shortly thereafter.


Best-case scenario

The Yankees and Rivera come to terms on a two-year deal, $30 million deal. Mo doesn't show any signs of slippage, astonishing baseball experts. He retires as MLB's all-time saves leader, with his reputation as the game's best postseason reliever ever firmly intact. Dave Roberts is caught in a Dateline "To Catch A Predator" sting, where Rivera — serving in a Steven Seagal-like celebrity deputy role — tases the former Red Sox outfielder as "Enter Sandman" blasts from a nearby police cruiser.

Worst-case scenario

Rivera returns, but from the onset of spring training, it's clear that his cutter has lost considerable movement and velocity. He is rocked for two straight months before the Yankees reluctantly remove him from closer's role. Metallica sues Yankee Stadium claiming copyright infringement, and Rivera is forced to change his entrance song to Miley Cyrus' "Party In The U.S.A." Rivera is DFA'd in August and, in desperate need of cash following the Metallica lawsuit, takes Wade Boggs' place as celebrity spokesman for Medical Hair Restoration. Tragically, the procedure fails for Rivera, rendering him a ghoulish freak.

Most-probable scenario

The Yankees and Rivera come to terms on a two-year deal, $30 million deal. He becomes less reliable on back-to-back days, which leads Girardi to become more judicious about how he uses him. As a result, Rivera's save total drops to the 25-30 range. Following the 2013 season, he retires and opens a monastery in his native Panama. On his periodical returns to the Stadium, fans lose their shit. If they're smart, Yankees will have the G.O.A.T. make his entrance on Mariano Rivera Day through the bullpen doors accompanied by James Hetfield's menacing guitar intro.


Best-case scenario

Jeter signs a five-year, $75 million deal. He changes his workout and diet regiment, and turns back the clock in the process, winning the Silver Slugger award in back-to-back years. He moves to left field in 2013, and through sheer will and determination, he makes himself an above-average defender at the position. The Yankees win the World Series in four of his last five seasons and he retires tied with Yogi Berra for most rings all time. He leaves the game with 3,803 hits, ranking him third all-time. His marriage to Minka Kelly is a successful and fruitful one, with many baby shortstops and smokin' brunettes created.

Worst-case scenario

Jeter's contract negotiations with the Yankees turn nasty, and in a desperate grab for attention, the Mets steal him away with a four year, $72 million deal. He gets the Mets stank on him and his offense and defense falls off a cliff, forcing stat geeks to completely recalibrate how they tabulate UZR. Minka Kelly turns out to be a gold digging monster who leaves him for Ken Huckaby, the scrub catcher who dislocated Jeter's shoulder in 2003. He retires a rich, but very bitter man, rarely leaving his mansion. He eventually beats a errand boy to death with a bowling pin and lives out the rest of his life behind the walls of a Florida state penitentiary, where cellmate Jim Leyritz never stops talking about Game 4 of the '96 Series.

Most-probable scenario

The Yankees offer Jeter a three-year $50 million deal with a host of post-retirement perks. He shops it around, realizes a better deal for a 36-year-old shortstop isn't coming, and signs the contract. He bounces back from his 2010 season with a much more Jeter-like 2011, finishing with a .300 average and 190 hits. His defense at shortstop slips, but he gives the team an out by volunteering to work in the outfield. By the final year of his deal, he's a LF/DH guy and .270 hitter. He retires with 3,420 hits and is elected to the Hall of Fame five years later. He becomes the team's greatest living icon and is the main attraction of every Old-Timers Day for 40 years. He's a legend, considered an equal alongside Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, and Mantle.

Dan Hanzus writes the Yankees blog River & Sunset and can be reached at Follow Dan on Twitter @danhanzus.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

ALCS Game 6: Friday Night Lights-Out for Yanks' Repeat Dreams

I think it finally sunk in for me right around the time Josh Hamilton was explaining to a live television audience how God allows him to hit baseballs far.

The Yankees were done. Dead. Finito. Their quest to repeat as world champions had come to an abrupt end in, of all places, the land of Friday Night Lights.

How did we get here?

No sport approaches baseball in the personal connection fostered between fan and team. For three hours a day, six to seven months a year, you're along for a ride with more twists and turns than a Swisher-approved episode of Gossip Girls. If you devour all the internet content, read the newspapers, listen to talk radio, or write a dopey blog, you go in even deeper.

And then just like that, with nine innings, a few bad pitches, and a handful of listless at-bats, it's all over. It's a genuinely painful shift in reality, hard for your girlfriend to understand, but even more difficult to come to grips with yourself.

You shouldn't care this much. And yet, you do.

The 6-1 loss in Game 6 served as a microcosm for how the Yankees buried themselves in the first place: Bad starting pitching, porous middle relief, and an offense stuck in a perpetual stoned haze.

Make no mistake, the Rangers very much deserved the pennant. The Yankees knocked them down in Game 1 and they had the guts to pop right back up. When the Rangers returned the favor in Game 2, the Yankees never seemed to recover. In retrospect, it's a minor miracle the series lasted six games.

What's frustrating as a Yankees fan is that you knew this team had the potential to perform far better than it did. They just fell flat when it counted most.

That's what makes the postseason such a different animal than the six months of baseball that precedes it. Fall into a funk in July, and you have plenty of time to straighten yourself out. Fall into a funk in October, you're going home.

I think what made Game 6 especially painful was that there was a collective belief amongst fans that the Yankees would find a way to get the series to Pettitte vs. Lee for the whole damn thing. It would have been a great matchup, and certainly would have made for fine baseball theater.

But just as they had all season, the Yankees zigged when you thought they would zag. Predicting anything with them was impossible. Maybe this was the only way it made sense in the end.


We all know that Colby Lewis is little more than an above-average pitcher. Superstars don't usually do two-year tours in Japan unless they're Jessie & The Rippers.

And yet, Lewis beat the Yankees twice in the ALCS, the second time with relative ease. It was the type of performance the Yankees hoped they were going to get out of Phil Hughes.

This isn't Hughes' fault — at least not his alone. He had long since obliterated his personal high for innings pitched in a season, and was clearly running on fumes in the end. And remember, he was only put in this position of responsibility because A.J. Burnett forgot how to pitch.

Is it disappointing that Hughes was unable to make The Leap? I suppose, especially when you factor in the expectations that have followed him since he was 20 years old. But ultimately, this failure was a team effort.

The Yankees broke down in all phases of the game. Were the Rangers really that much better? That's certainly debatable, but there's no questioning who was the better team over six games.

Even so, media types will paint this outcome as some type of grand upset, David slaying the mighty Goliath. That A-Rod made the final out, the man the Rangers once gave $252 million to save their franchise, only enhances that angle.

I get that. The general populace needs a team to hate in every major sport. In the NFL, it's the Cowboys. In college hoops, it's Duke. In the NBA, it's become the Heat. In the NHL, it's ... um ... you know, that one team with all the skates.

The Yankees are obviously that team in baseball. How could it be anyone else?

Being a fan of the team everyone else hates is more fun than you might think. ESPN's Bill Simmons has said that rooting for the Yankees is like rooting for the dealer in black jack.

That's fine with me. The dealer does get taken from time to time, just like what happened to the Yankees on Friday. But ultimately, these type of things are only temporary.

Don't you know the house always wins?

Stray thoughts:

  • I'll get into this in the next couple of days, but the Core Four enters the offseason at a crossroads. Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, and Mariano Rivera are all free agents. Jorge Posada has one year left on his deal. If I had to guess, I'd say they'll all be back next year. But 2011 may be the end of the line for the unit as complete group.
  • Did the Yankees put up some ghastly numbers in this series or what? They hit .217 as a team and had an ERA of 6.58. With runners in scoring position they were 5-for-41 (.151). They were outscored 38-19. I'll ask you again, how in Josh Hamilton's savior's name did this series get to a sixth game?
  • David Robertson, you let me down son. All season, I thought of Robertson as a difference-maker come playoff time. Instead, he fell flat on his face. The two-run homer he allowed to Cruz was the real knockout blow on the season. You could see the Yankees emotionally check out after that.
  • Like it or not, the Yankees will try to work out a deal for Joe Girardi and his binder to return in 2011. What other option do they have? (Don't say Torre, don't say Torre, don't say Torre ...)
  • More (potential) bad news for Yankee fans: Say the Rangers win it all, and Cliff Lee does his Cliff Lee thing two more times, winning the World Series MVP in the process. Very feasible, right? Now tell me how the Rangers will allow Lee walk as a free agent? I think they pony up the dough and he stays.
  • Lastly, I want to thank everyone who has been reading River & Sunset all season. The blog has really made strides in '10, and like the Yankees, we plan on getting better in the offseason and beyond.

Dan Hanzus writes the Yankees blog River & Sunset and can be reached at Follow Dan on Twitter @danhanzus.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

ALCS Game 5: Yankees Aren't Dead Just Yet

If you're like me, you weren't quite mentally ready for the early start time that came with Game 5 of the ALCS.

Like a Saw sequel, it just felt rushed. Only hours earlier, the Yankees had bumbled their way to a lopsided Game 4 loss to the Rangers at the Stadium. I had spent a good portion of the night on the phone with my Dad, trying to convince him that the police would almost certainly investigate the sudden disappearance of Joe Girardi.

And while I dealt with defusing short-sighted abduction plots, I also had to squelch the pangs of dread I had thinking about the Yankees' chances in Game 5.

There was plenty to be worried about: The disheartening nature of Tuesday's loss, the season-ending injury to Mark Teixeira, the continued erosion of the bullpen, the curious ineffectiveness of CC Sabathia. There were more questions than answers.

Then there was the date. October 20. Only a masochist like myself would know that as the date Yankee Universe lost its innocence. October 20, 2004. 10/20. Never forget.

So yeah, I was dealing with demons that even Josh Hamilton could respect.

But that's the funny thing about this Yankee team. Just when you have them pegged a certain way, they dart in the opposite direction. There's no possible way to know what to expect.

How else do you explain how loose New York came out in Game 5?

It was the Yankees, not the Rangers, who played like they had house money. Texas gagged with runners on base, Texas made the mental mistakes, Texas threw the ball around the field like the Bad News Bears.

The five runs the Yankees put up by the fourth inning is typically more than enough for Sabathia, who all season cruised through the starts in which his team gave him an early lead.

But this is a different Sabathia than we saw in the spring and summer months. Gone is the pitcher with ace-stuff imposing his will on the opposition. He's been replaced by a pitcher whose every start is a war of attrition.

Sabathia gave up 11 (11!) hits in six innings of work, somehow escaping with just two runs to his ledger. I remarked during my live blog that it may have been the worst good start in the history of the sport.

What does the win mean? It's hard to say at this point. If Phil Hughes pitches like he did last Saturday, the Yankees' Game 5 guile and Sabathia's gutsy effort will be forgotten.

But I like the Yankees' chances against Colby Lewis in Game 6. Up and down the lineup, the Yankees were getting good swings on Wednesday. Both Nick Swisher and Curtis Granderson snapped out of funks with homers. Alex Rodriguez continues to hit the ball hard. Jorge Posada showed some life. Derek Jeter is quietly having a nice series. Robinson Cano keeps destroying everything thrown in his general vicinity.

An offensive breakout is certainly possible.

The Rangers will likely be more at ease in their own house, making stupid hand gestures and feeding off 40,000 fans wearing really stupid shirts. But I'm wondering how a still very inexperienced team reacts if the Yankees score first?

Cliff Lee remains a beautiful security blanket, but if the Yankees can get the negative thoughts to creep into their heads, anything's possible.

Like I said about 10/20 ... never forget.

Stray thoughts:

  • Even if the Yankees go out like lambs in Game 6, at least fans don't have to sit through a visiting team celebrating at the Stadium. I had the great fortune of being at each of the last two such celebrations in the Bronx: the aforementioned 10/20 and Game 5 of the '07 ALDS against Indians, perhaps better known as The Night Chien-Ming Wang Crapped Himself In Front of 57,000 People.
  • I don't want to kick dirt on the man's grave, but did anybody miss Teixeira today? Kind of feels like Cano should have been batting in the three-hole for weeks.
  • Speaking of Cano, how good is this guy? Four homers through five games in the ALCS. Here's a question for you: Is Cano now the best player the Yankees have?
  • Silver lining if Yanks lose on Friday: No more Ernie Johnson in your life. Even better, you'll be done listening to John Smoltz openly root for young Texas pitchers to escape jams. That dude seriously hasn't gotten over 1996 yet. I think he talks about it four times a broadcast.
  • Aaron Boone and Bucky Dent threw out the ceremonial first pitch. Ramiro Pena was the catcher, because catching ceremonial first pitches is Ramiro Pena's only role with the Yankees.
  • "Let's go, two more, two more!" -- Swisher, to teammates immediately following the final out.

Dan Hanzus writes the Yankees blog River & Sunset and can be reached at Follow Dan on Twitter @danhanzus.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

LIVE BLOG: ALCS Game 5 - New York Yankees vs. Texas Rangers

The Yankees have their backs up against it today at the Stadium, where they try to avoid elimination in the ALCS. Follow along at River & Sunset.

4:00 p.m. - Hey everybody. Let's do this thing.

4:01 p.m. - Is there any way to know what to expect from Yanks today? We know they have been dominated in four games so far, but an elimination game has a way of snapping teams out of funks (see: The Series That Shall Not Be Named). The Yanks don't have Dave Roberts, and they don't have Mark Teixeira either, but they do have CC Sabathia and Mariano Rivera. Hopefully that will be enough to get this thing back to Texas.

4:03 p.m. - As I wrote about this morning, Joe Girardi managed badly enough to be fired last night. I don't think that will happen, but his leverage will be hurt if Yanks go out like lambs tonight. Also working against him: He doesn't have Cubs to use as leverage any more.

4:04 p.m. - From TBS: Yanks down three games to one for only third time in franchise history.

4:07 p.m. - In case you haven't heard, Kid Rock was born free. He decided to celebrate this by releasing a stunningly generic rock song.

4:09 p.m. - First pitch a strike by CC. Third pitch a sharp single to center by Andrus. Uh oh.

4:12 p.m. - CC makes a great pitch to Young, inducing a 6-4-3 DP. Bases empty, two outs for Hamilton. That's how you want it.

4:15 p.m. - After Hamilton singled to right, CC freezes Guerrero with a knee-high fastball for strike three. Two hits, no damage through half an inning. Time for a drink.

4:22 p.m. - Swisher now 4-for-45 against Rangers in 2010. Yikes.

4:25 p.m. - Yanks go 1-2-3. Why do I feel like I've been typing that a lot the last few days?

4:28 p.m. - CC getting too much of the plate with his pitches. Three hits in first six batters.

4:34 p.m. - It's far too easy to steal bases on the Yankees. Eight steals by Rangers is new playoff record of infamy for New York. Meanwhile, CC gets the strikeout to get out of the inning unscathed.

4:39 p.m. - Good job by A-Rod there, working the walk to lead off the second. Wilson was a walk machine in '10. Need to make him work here.

4:45 p.m. - Po lives! After a Thames flyout and Berkman walk, Posada singles through the left side and A-Rod scores on a bang-bang play at the plate. 1-0 Yanks.

4:48 p.m. - Has anyone else notice Smoltz continually trying to talk Texas pitchers out of jams during this series? Annoying.

4:50 p.m. - Wow! Rangers just turned into the Bad News Bears. Granderson singles to left, scoring Berkman. Young can't field Francoeur's throw from right, then C.J. Wilson airmails the throw to the plate. Posada would have been a dead duck. 3-0 Yanks.

4:54 p.m. - Yanks can't get Granderson in from second with one out, but New York ends second with biggest lead of series. A true ace shouldn't need much more than this. Do it, Carsten Charles.

4:57 p.m. - Posada scored there, but he remains the worst baserunner I've ever seen. Comically bad.'s Jon Heyman just called it his "Mr. Magoo baserunning style" on Twitter. I think that about sums it up.

4:58 p.m. - Maybe it's just me, but does anybody else get the chills when TBS cuts to shots of Lance Berkman standing at first base with a glove on his hand?

5:00 p.m. - Andrus nubber that came to a rest on the third-base foul line about sums up this series to date.

5:03 p.m. - Josh Hamilton is one swing away from locking up ALCS MVP status.

5:04 p.m. - Just learned that C.J. Wilson is "straight edge" (no drugs/alcohol). Does this mean he likes really shitty music, too? Seems to go hand-and-and for whatever reason.

5:05 p.m. - Meanwhile, the Rangers steal their 4,000th base of the series. CC doesn't seem particularly interested in holding anyone on.

5:06 p.m. - Hamilton lines one up the middle, but right at Jeter. Sabathia unscathed through three.

5:07 p.m. - For what it's worth, I'm extremely Dull Edge. I also like Tom Petty.

5:09 p.m. - Should have mentioned this earlier, but we've had a Jeffrey Maier redux, a Steve Bartman redux, and we nearly had a Jeremy Giambi redux on Jorge Posada's single in the second. Slide A-Rod!

5:10 p.m. - John Sterling is probably losing his shit right now. Nick Swisher and Robbie Cano go back-to-back and it's 5-0. C.J. Wilson's got none-stuff today.

5:15 p.m. - You know that homer meant a lot to Swisher. He dedicated his entire offseason to making himself a better player after his awful '09 playoffs. He was rewarded for his hard work with a fine '10 regular season, but it just hadn't clicked in October until that at-bat. Hopefully it's the start of a tear. Without Teixeira, Yanks need more production up and down lineup. "But Tex didn't produce anyway, Dan." Oh right.

5:20 p.m. - File under close-but-no-cigar: Bob Sheppard would have turned 100 today.

5:23 p.m. - What I've learned in ALCS: Nelson Cruz is the best Texas hitter whose not a recovering drug addict. And that's saying something.

5:25 p.m. - This isn't good. Berkman slips chasing a foul ball and apparently banged his head. Yanks already hurting at first-base depth with Tex injury.

5:27 p.m. - Looks like Berkman is okay. He didn' thit his head. And since he's okay, I can state without question that was the worst attempt to chase down a pop up I've ever seen. Seriously, the dude over-ran it by five feet. How has he played first base most of his career?

5:29 p.m. - Not to pile on here, you know you're a bad defensive first baseman when Jason Giambi is watching at home and saying to himself, "That guy sucks."

5:30 p.m. - Meanwhile, Sabathia gets a strikeout and sharp groundout to get out of jam. 5-0 through four. CC not especially sharp today, but is buckling down with runners on.

5:32 p.m. - By the way, if it was Nick Johnson who took that fall, he would have immediately burst into flames then risen to the heavens like a DL phoenix.

5:40 p.m. - Terrible job by Gardner there. Have to put the ball in play with runner on third and less than two outs. Meanwhile, Gene Monahan tending to Berkman like he just wrapped up Round 7 against Ivan Drago.

5:45 p.m. - Jeter grounds out to short for the third time today and we head to the fifth with Yankees up 5-0.

5:48 p.m. - Matt Treanor hits a solo homer to left and Ernie Johnson nearly pees himself with excitement. 5-1 Yanks.

5:50 p.m. - Dirty little secret: Sabathia still pitching like crap. Seven hits allowed through four-plus innings. He needs to be better.

5:55 p.m. - That's eight hits allowed by Sabathia. First and second one out with Hamilton coming up. I'm peeing myself.

5:56 p.m. - Just got first glimpse of Smokin' Hot Black Chick who works in Legends Suites behind Yanks dugout. Too nervous to enjoy it right now.

5:57 p.m. - Huge. Sabathia gets Hamilton to ground into 4-6-3 DP. Very bizarre statline for Carsten Charles. 5 IP, 8 H, 1 R. I'll take it.

6:00 p.m. - Potentially huge development as Cruz exits with hamstring injury. He had hammy trouble throughout regular season. Rangers just lost huge piece of puzzle for comeback try tonight.

6:02 p.m. - Know this about Posada: Every hit he has for the rest of this series — hell, for the rest of his career — is basically a dagger throw at Girardi. "How dare you bench me for a guy named Francisco."

6:05 p.m. - People have been getting on A-Rod for not repeating his postseason heroics of '09, but I haven't been one of them. He's hit a lot of balls hard without much to show for it. This time he rockets one up the gap and gets robbed of an RBI when ball skips over fence.

6:06 p.m. - Thames has chance to bury Texas here. Big at-bat.

6:07 p.m. - After two balls, Thames intentionally walked. Baton is passed to Berkman with bases loaded. I have a good feeling about this at-bat.

6:09 p.m. - Berkman gets the job done, skying a ball to the edge of the warning track in center for a sacrifice fly. The Berkman who has showed up in the postseason is the player Cashman thought he was getting on July 31. Better late than never I suppose.

6:10 p.m. - 6-1 after five.

6:11 p.m. - There's that infernal Master Card commercial again with the dude who claimed he dumped a girlfriend because she called him on the phone and said she thought she was a Red Sox fan. 1) The nature of the phone call itself is highly implausible 2) I dated a Sox fan: If girl is hot enough, you get over it.

6:18 p.m. - CC just gave up his ninth hit, which is pretty incredible when you realize it's 6-1 in favor of his team. Can he get Yanks through seven innings without his good stuff. And while we're on the topic, what the hell happened to CC's good stuff?

6:20 p.m. - Okay, if I'm Girardi right now, I have to start at least thinking of a contingency plan that doesn't involve CC handing ball directly to Mo. That's 10 hits allowed now for Sabathia. You can just assume Sabathia will keep escaping trouble.

6:21 p.m. - Good for Girardi, who has the sense to get Wood loose in 'pen. Meanwhile, CC just gave up his 11th hit. Seriously, what happened to this guy?

6:27 p.m. - Sabathia goes 3-2 on Treanor, then gets a soft grounder to third. Run scores, 6-2. Men on second and third with two outs here for Moreland. Huuuuuuge spot for CC.

6:31 p.m. - CC just doesn't seem to have the stuff to put away hitters tonight.

6:32 p.m. - But he drops the hook to freeze Moreland and officially end the worst good start in the history of the sport. 6-2 heading into the bottom of the sixth.

6:40 p.m. - Ernie Johnson trying to create nonsensical melodrama again: "The Yankees remember Bob Sheppard every time they put that uniform on." Um, probably not. Not a single Yankee went to the guy's funeral ... not even Jeter.

6:42 p.m. - I really hope I get the chance to complain about Joe Buck and Tim McCarver again. They're even more fun to rip apart than EJ/Smoltz/Darling.

6:45 p.m. - Great, great at-bat by Jeter, who draws a walk. Yanks would do themselves a favor by blowing it open here.

6:46 p.m. - Wait, Phillies fans call their starting pitchers the "H2O factor"? That's without a doubt the gayest thing I've ever heard. Then again, this is the same fanbase that chose this as their playoff fight song in 2009. Miley Cyrus people.

6:49 p.m. - Damn. Swisher can't escape slump, rapping into 4-6-3 DP to end scoring threat. Kerry Wood on to get it to Mo.

6:56 p.m. - From my boy Jack Curry's Twitter feed: "How did CC allow 11 hits in 6 innings and give up a mere 2 runs? The Rangers were 3 for 15 with runners on base, including 2 DPs, off him."

6:58 p.m. - I'm hoping it's just paranoia, but why can't I shake this feeling that Rangers are going to make a game of this?

7:01 p.m. - Wow. Wood picks off Andrus, the second time he bailed himself out of trouble that way in this series (Kinsler in Game 1). With Hamilton at the dish, just an indefensible mental mistake by the Texas shortstop.

7:04 p.m. - Ha, TBS gets shot of mongo Yankee fan doing a mock antlers gesture following pick-off. Love it. Meanwhile, Wook fans Hamilton and Yanks are six outs away from getting this back to Arlington.

7:08 p.m. - Wow. Ron Darling just inferred that while CC Sabathia's start was gutsy, it's the Rangers that deserve more credit for ... well I'm not sure what exactly Mr. Met was going for there. Why don't you sit out a couple plays Ron?

7:15 p.m. - A-Rod steals second. ANTLERS! Dumb.

7:18 p.m. - Yanks still not exactly gangbusters with runners in scoring position tonight. Thames just misses a two-run homer, then pops out to second.

7:21 p.m. - I'm not one to complain about these things typically, but these games are loooooooonnnng. We're on pace for another four-plus hours of PT.

7:24 p.m. - Berkman strikes out and Yanks stranded another runner. We head to eighth with Wood still on mound. I'm guessing they're going to try to get through the inning without Mo, but will likely call on him for four or even five outs if Rangers threaten.

7:26 p.m. - I'm glad Jared the Subway Guy lost all that weight, but honestly, why the HELL should I care if that doofus is training for the New York Marathon? I don't even care when my own friends train for the New York Marathon. I'm out on this one. Bring back the $5 footlong song.

7:30 p.m. - A-Rod — whose an epically underrated third baseman — makes a great diving stop and throw to get Kinsler, ensuring a rare 1-2-3 inning for Yankee pitching. Great job by Wood, who built the bridge to Rivera.

7:35 p.m. - Assuming Mo closes the door in the ninth, I'm going to come out and say it: I like the Yankees' chances in Game 6. I think Hughes will bounce back with a better start, and I don't have a tremendous amount of fear for Colby Lewis. Yankees will certainly have their shot to get it to Pettitte-Lee on Saturday night.

7:37 p.m. - Granderson gives Yanks added cushion with a bullet into short porch in right. This might be only park where that's a four-bagger. 7-2 Yanks heading to the ninth.

7:47 p.m. - Some more optimism: Yanks seem due for a breakout game offensively. If that happens on Friday, it changes the dynamic of a potential Game 7 as well. Don't discount the mental games extending this series may have on an inexperienced Texas team.

7:50 p.m. - Two up, two down for Rivera in ninth. Yanks one out away from Texas.

7:52 p.m. - Yankee fan in the stands with "Not Over-Lee Concerned" sign held high. That's what you call whistling by the graveyard.

7:56 p.m. - Rivera gets Andrus to wrap it up. 7-2 Yankee win and we're headed to Game 6 back in Arlington. Yanks have no choice to take it one game at a time. It's a three-step process and the first step is now complete.

7:57 p.m. - Swisher as Yanks high five: "Let's go, let's go, two more!" I like it.

8:00 p.m. - That's it for me. Thanks for reading everybody. Had good traffic numbers, and will do this again in Game 7 if Yanks can get us there. Check back on the blog late tonight for a new column.

Dan Hanzus writes the Yankees blog River & Sunset and can be reached at Follow Dan on Twitter @danhanzus.

ALCS Game 4: Too (Grady) Little, Too Late for Girardi, Yankees

Grady Little is forever remembered as the manager who was fired on the demerit of a single postseason game. Joe Girardi will probably avoid that same fate, but that doesn't mean he doesn't deserve it.

It's hard to imagine Girardi having a worse game than he did on Tuesday at Yankee Stadium. That he had such a bad night, with the stakes being as high as they were, is damn near unforgivable.

Put it this way: If The Boss were alive and still The Boss, reports of Girardi's disappearance would have already been circulating around the internet.

Girardi manages like a tortured man. The game of baseball doesn't seem fun to him, at least not in his current role. If Charlie Manuel is the type of manager who goes with his gut then lets it play out without regret, Girardi represents the exact opposite.

Things fester. His neurosis consumes him. It even manifests itself physically in the veins that bulge from his neck as he stares onto the field.

In Game 4, we watched many of Girardi's internal fears about his team collapse in on itself, plot lines tying together like a cruel Seinfeld episode.

"How much can I get from A.J.?" "Can Joba be trusted?" "How should I handle Posada and Cervelli?" "Can I get by with someone other than Mo?"

Every button he pushed was like a nuclear launch. By the time he made his final horrible decision of the evening — inserting Sergio Mitre over Rivera in the ninth — it was almost comical. Almost.

There was one inning in particular that both typified Girardi's awful night and likely doomed the Yankees' season.

With a man on second and two outs in the sixth, Girardi decided to intentionally walk David Murphy to get to Bengie Molina. He had Joba Chamberlain warming in the bullpen, only problem was, he had long lost any semblance of trust in the reliever. This lack of faith was pronounced enough that leaving in Burnett seemed like an acceptable alternative, even after the right-hander nearly threw an intentional ball to the screen.

Had Girardi been thinking clearly at the moment, he would have understood that two runs in 5 2/3 innings was more than the Yankees could have ever asked for from Burnett. The grotesque nature of Burnett's regular season demanded a leash that was short and unforgiving. And yet, instead of bringing in Chamberlain, he trusted a man who hadn't pitched in 17 days before Tuesday.

Burnett didn't reward his skipper's faith. Molina drilled the next pitch into the seats in left, dragging his impressive gut around the bases and into a jubilant Rangers dugout. He likely took the Yankees' hopes of repeating as champs with him.

Does Burnett deserve blame? Of course. But remember that part of a manager's job is to protect a player from himself. Girardi should've known better than to ask for extra outs from a 15-game loser. He left Burnett in to hang himself. And that's exactly what he did.

Is there any way to recover at this point? Conceivably, yes. A team as recently as 2007 overcame a 3-1 deficit to win the pennant (Boston over Cleveland). But it's hard to shake the nagging feeling that the Yankees you saw in September have returned when the games count the most.

CC Sabathia gets one more start to salvage what has been a disconcerting end to a Cy Young-caliber season. If he can get it done, Phil Hughes will have to get back on the rubber in Arlington, where he was picked apart on Saturday. The Yankees survive that, they get to face the invincible Cliff Lee in a Game 7.

The odds are — as they say —not good.

I wondered all season if this Yankees team had the character to make a memorable October run. As they faded in September I was convinced for sure they didn't ... but then watched in amazement as they started winning playoff games like it was 1996 all over again.

Yeah, I'll admit it. They sucked me in. I know I'm not alone, either. But these last four days are now making me wonder if I was right about them all along.

So who are these Yankees? The proud defending champs with the ability to overcome any obstacle? Or just another team loaded with All-Stars but not enough character to get over the hump?

I honestly have no idea. We'll likely get our clarification tonight.

Stray thoughts

  • It's fitting that Mark Teixeira's worst season as a pro ended with him crumpled on the first-base bag after another frustrating, empty at-bat. The LoHud Blog reports it's a 6-8 week hamstring injury, problematic since the Yankees' season may have just 12 hours left in it.
  • Something tells me we just witnessed Joba Chamberlain's final performance in pinstripes. Anybody upset about this?
  • Nick Swisher, you have to do a better job selling your hit-by-pitch in the eighth inning. Had he rightfully taken first, it's a 7-4 game with bases still loaded, only one out, and the incredibly mortal Darren Oliver on the mound. The game could have went in a lot of different directions at that point. Emblematic of a frustrating night.
  • Great line from the homer hero Molina: "It's not bad for a fat kid that everyone makes fun of when he runs."
  • Make no mistake: The Rangers are dominating this series. Texas has outscored the Yankees 30-11, outhit them 43-26 and would have already closed this out if not for wasting a five-run lead in Game 1. New York is hitting a pathetic .154 (6-for-39) with runners in scoring position. The recession must have claimed the jobs of Aura and Mystique.
  • Finally, I'll be live blogging Game 5 right here tomorrow afternoon. If you're stuck at work, click over and watch me slowly lose my mind in real time like the dude from Grizzly Man. Good times!

Dan Hanzus writes the Yankees blog River & Sunset and can be reached at Follow Dan on Twitter @danhanzus.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

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I talk about a lot of stuff, but mostly the Yankees.


In-game musings throughout the ALCS!!! Please join me. I'm so ... lonely.

ALCS Game 3: Lee locked in, Yanks offense locked in neutral

There's no way you can take away from what Cliff Lee did last night.

Trust me, I'd love to. I wish I could say it had something to do with his "magic" hat, a pact with Satan, or some potent HGH cocktail guzzled before first pitch, but I just can't.

It was, quite truly, one of the greatest pitching performances in postseason history. Eight innings, no runs, two singles, one walk, 13 strikeouts. I can't ever remember a Yankee team being quite so dominated. I'm not so sure he wouldn't have thrown 16 scoreless innings had he been asked to.

But as brilliant as Lee was, there's no denying that something is going on with the Yankees' offense right now. Throw out the eighth inning of Game 1, and New York has scored an almost unthinkable three runs in 26 innings against the Texas Rangers.

The Texas Rangers. The Texas Rangers! With all due respect to C.J. Wilson, Colby Lewis, and Lee, Maddux-Glavine-Smoltz they are not.

There are culprits up and down the lineup right now. Derek Jeter (3-for-13) is doing himself no favors in his last gasp contract push. Nick Swisher (1-for-11) had a great 11-pitch at-bat against Lee last night, but his postseason struggles march on. Mark Teixeira (1-for-11), just as he was last October, looks completely lost. Alex Rodriguez (2-for-13) has had some good swings, but not much to show for it. Jorge Posada (2-for-10) has looked every bit like a 39-year-old catcher whose mind is predisposed on how many bases will be stolen on him the following inning.

The Yankees are hitting .194 as a team through three games. When you remember that their starters were bombed in both Game 1 and Game 2, it's a minor miracle this series isn't already over at 3-0.

If the Yankees go on to lose the ALCS, something tells me GM Brian Cashman will take a lot of heat for not sealing the deal to acquire Lee back in July. But the criticism Cashman may receive will pale in comparison to the heat Joe Girardi will take if A.J. Burnett gets bombed tonight in Game 4.

It's funny how this has played out. I think every Yankee fan knew in the back of his or her mind that Burnett would end up being counted on at some point in this postseason.

That time has arrived. It's a terrifying, bone chilling, vomit-inducing thought, but Girardi has decided he rather give his struggling right-hander the shot rather than put his other starters on short rest.

It's a massive gamble for sure. A potential season-wrecker is another way to put it. Take off your pinstripes, put on a sweatsuit, matching Nikes and drink the red kool-aid is another way to say it.

Part of me thinks this wouldn't be happening if CC Sabathia hadn't suddenly become a question mark these past two weeks. It could be that tiny bit of faith Girardi has lost in his ace that has led to Burnett getting his shot here.

Still, I'm surprised. It was recently as Friday night that ESPN's Buster Olney reported that after an awful simulated game performance (two hit batters, one ball thrown back to the screen), the Yankees would do everything in their power to avoid using Burnett.

That philosophy has obviously changed now.

I'll leave you with some optimism here: A little less than a year ago, Cliff Lee dominated New York at Yankee Stadium to give his team, then the Phillies, a huge upper hand in a best-of-seven series.

The starter the next night for the Yanks was none other than Allan James Burnett. I remember needing to drink heavily before first pitch armed with the knowledge that another shaky Burnett outing would likely blow up my season.

You all remember what happened. Burnett was awesome, striking out nine over seven innings in a 3-1 Yankee win.

I bring this up not to make you feel good about tonight's game, because I know that's kind of impossible. But remember that as horrible as Burnett has been, he still has the physical capability to excel in a big spot. It's what makes him so maddening.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to buy out all the vodka within a seven-mile radius.

Stray thoughts:

  • A big River & Sunset pat on the back is in store for Andy Pettitte, who other than one bad pitch to Josh Hamilton, was everything you could have asked for. A shame the offense couldn't back up the old man.
  • A big River & Sunset whuck is in store for David Robertson, who got his brains beat in hours after I had waxed poetic about how he, not Kerry Wood, should be the eighth-inning guy. Thanks pal.
  • From my buddy Howie (@howardblu) via's Tom Verducci: Burnett hasn't pitched in 17 days, hasn't won a game in 49 days and hasn't beaten a winning team in 147 days. New York is 2-10 in games Burnett has pitched since August. This season in four starts with six or more days of rest, Burnett was 0-2 with a 9.25 ERA. In other words, get out the perfect game celebration bubbly!
  • Back to Pettitte,'s Jon Heyman tweeted today that Yankee officials are said to be unsure if No. 46 will retire or come back in '11. I say there's no way he quits yet.
  • The Chicago Cubs have hired a new manager, and it’s not Joe Girardi. Interim manager Mike Quade was given the gig full-time today. I suppose this hurts Girardi in terms of leverage with Yankees, though I'm sure they'll get something done assuming he wants to come back. He still looks pretty miserable to me.
  • Melky Cabrera was released by the Braves. Do I smell a Robbie-Melky glowstick reunion on the horizon?!?

Dan Hanzus writes the Yankees blog River & Sunset and can be reached at Follow Dan on Twitter @danhanzus.

Monday, October 18, 2010

ALCS Game 3: NOW Yankees can turn attention to Cliff Lee

Let's face it: The Yankees are very fortunate they're not preparing to face Cliff Lee tonight trying to avoid a 3-0 hole in the ALCS.

That reality wasn't far off. If you want to break it down, you could say the Yankees were outplayed in 16 of the 18 innings in Arlington. Luckily, the two innings New York had the upper hand were the last two in Game 1's unlikely comeback.

Now they face the much bally-hooed Lee, who it seems has been preordained for glory before he ever steps on the mound at Yankee Stadium.

Never mind the fact that the Yankees have actually had some success against the left-hander (including last year in the World Series), or that New York counters with one of the best postseason pitchers who ever lived.

Oh right. Andy Pettitte. People always seem to forget about Andy Pettitte. For those a little murky on the subject, here's a quick refresher:

  • 240 career victories

  • Five World Series rings

  • Won clinching game in all three rounds of 2009 postseason

  • Went 11-3 with a 3.28 ERA in 2010 regular season

  • Has 19 postseason wins

  • Pitched seven strong innings in ALDS victory over Twins

  • Recently completed a well-documented journey to comfort

  • Allowed two runs in eight innings to beat Texas in April

  • Is 7-1 in 11 career ALCS starts

The way the Yankees' chances in this game are being described, you'd think Melido Perez was getting a spot start. Don't sleep on the type of competitor Pettitte is, either. You think he hasn't noticed how the media has fawned over Lee and crowned him as the best left-hander since Sandy Freaking Koufax?

I don't doubt that Lee will pitch well tonight. Just don't be surprised if this becomes a battle of the bullpens, where both starters do their jobs well and we head to the eighth inning with a 2-2 game.

I think that's more likely than the current populace prediction: Lee channels Steve Nebraska in The Scout, strikes out 27 straight on 81 pitches, hits two homers, cures A.I.D.S. then opens a successful chain of T.G.I. Friday's restaurants around greater Dallas.

I think all that happened in The Scout. I tend not to see Brendan Fraser movies more than once, unless that movie is called Encino Man.

My friend Howie is a season ticket holder who also doubles as the most pessimistic Yankee fan alive. I'm usually talking him off the ledge — he famously declared the 2009 Yanks dead in May, and had he been around in the 1920s, he would have railed against Babe Ruth's lack of closing speed on balls hit in the gap. But I can't argue with his theory that New York needs to take two out of three in the Bronx to have any chance here.

Going down 3-2 just seems a steep hill to climb with the starting pitching being as suspect as it has been. Even CC Sabathia has dropped down to "show me" status until he can put together seven or eight strong innings.

Joe Torre always said that Game 3 was the most important game of any playoff series. I'm inclined to agree. Are the Yankees done if they can't beat Lee and the Rangers tonight? Nah. But a sense of dread will certainly start to creep into the proceedings.

Stray thoughts:

  • I mentioned this during my live blog, but it's worth bringing up again. Mark Teixeira is now a .183 (15-for-82) hitter in the postseason as a member of the New York Yankees. I'm no face and body language expert, but it appears Teixeira's head might explode if he gets any tighter at the plate. Relax T-800. Relax.
  • His final two at-bats on Saturday aside, Robinson Cano looks locked in right now. I expect more big things from him tonight. No left-handed hitter had more homers off lefties than Cano in '10. Cliff Lee throws with his left arm. This is literary device called foreshadowing.
  • Among pitchers not named Mariano, I don't think I trust any reliever in the Yankees bullpen more than David Robertson. Joe Girardi seems set in the idea of Kerry Wood as the eighth-inning guy right now, however. I'm still uneasy about this.
  • Regarding Cliff Lee and the Stuff On His Hat: I'm going to assume he's a cheater and a liar and a crook until it's proved otherwise. And what about his last name? Am I supposed to believe it's really Lee? I think there's some Don Draper/Dick Whitman stuff going on here.

Dan Hanzus writes the Yankees blog River & Sunset and can be reached at Follow Dan on Twitter @danhanzus.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

LIVE BLOG: ALCS Game 2 - Yankees at Rangers

4:06 p.m. - Let's do this thing.

4:13 p.m. - Sorry, some technical difficulties here. I'm starting to think Derek Jeter would swing at a kitten if a pitcher threw it at him at this point. Anyway, Yanks go 1-2-3 against Colby Lewis in the first.

4:20 p.m. - Elvis Andrus reaches on an infield single then moves to second on a wild pitch. TBS cuts to a lot of ugly Rangers fans doing the antlers thing. It is dumb.

4:23 p.m. - Okay, I think we can see where this is going. Posada had a very shaky game behind the plate on Friday, and the Rangers obviously noticed. Running all over the place right now.

4:24 p.m. - Side note: Elvis Andrus claims he hasn't cut his hair since spring training. Shouldn't it be longer than mid-neck length? Is he okay?

4:30 p.m. - Posada exposed again. He doesn't look Andrus back at third before throwing down to second to get Hamilton, allowing Andrus to steal home. It's sad to watch, but this guy just shouldn't be behind the plate right now.

4:31 p.m. - Hughes gets Cruz to strike out the side, but Posada's gaffe leaves the Yankees trailing 1-0 after the first. Luckily, Texas must get ahead by at least six runs to have any shot at victory.

4:38 p.m. - Robbie Cano just misses a solo homer to right-center. TBS' Ernie Johnson, meanwhile, makes a joke at first-base coach Mick Kelleher's expense about getting hit in the balls during the ALDS.

4:40 p.m. - Nick Swisher rips a two-out double to right. Yankees getting some good swings on Lewis.

4:42 p.m. - Anybody notice John Smoltz get caught rooting for Texas there? Said something along the lines of, "Hopefully Lewis can get out of this...", before clearly catching himself. Yes, I'm insane.

4:43 p.m. - Posada gets the benefit of the doubt on a 3-2 pitch, Yanks have runners on first and second with Fat Puma coming up.

4:46 p.m. - Berkman ropes one to right that Cruz manages to track down for the third out. No damage, but there's a silver lining here: Yanks are getting good hacks on Lewis.

4:48 p.m. - Fun fact that may only interest me: Phil Hughes loves Collective Soul. Most underrated Collective Soul song: "Run". Gloriously terrible.

4:51 p.m. - David Murphy homers off the stupid overhang in right and its 2-0. Meanwhile, the Rangers play the theme to The Natural. Probably should have played The Fringe Player.

4:55 p.m. - Bummed that Jorge Cantu isn't in the starting lineup for the Rangers today. Things are always better when a guy who looks like a Dick Tracy character is involved.

4:57 p.m. - After Elvis Andrus singles, Michael Young squibs one down the first-base line and it's 3-0. Second and third with Rangers looking to blow it open with Hamilton. Not good, Phil.

4:58 p.m. - Beer No. 2.

4:59 p.m. - HUUUGE out by Hughes, who gets Vlad to groundout to A-Rod with the bases loaded. 3-0 = eminently doable.

5:08 p.m. - Nolan Ryan's long-grass plan backfires as Jeter legs out a nubber in front of the plate. Somewhere, Robin Ventura is smiling broadly.

5:10 p.m. - Curtis Granderson hit by a pitch that bounced, bringing up Mark Teixeira with runners on first and second and one out.

5:13 p.m. - Bad job by the Yanks' big boppers there, as Tex and A-Rod are retired easily to end two-on, no out threat. Not happy about how that played out at all.

5:17 p.m. - Ron Darling wore a fat suit in Shallow Hal. I would love for Big Ern to ask him about that shit.

5:19 p.m. - Time for Easy Cheese to man up. Man on third, one out. Can he find a way out of this?

5:20 p.m. - Terrible job by Hughes today. Gets ahead of Murphy, then serves up RBI double and it's 4-0. Yanks' starting pitching has left a lot to be desired through two games.

5:22 p.m. - When Bengie Molina is raking on you, you know you're having a bad day. 5-0.

5:25 p.m. - Andrus hits a screaming liner, but it's right at Cano to end the inning. Epic fail for both CC and Hughes in ALCS. On the bright side, the Yankees proved 12 hours ago that a 5-0 deficit can be overcome. And then there's this: Colby Lewis kind of sucks.

5:28 p.m. - TBS cuts to a luxury box shot of Dirk Nowitzki wearing a Dirk Nowitzki Rangers jersey. Bush league, bro.

5:29 p.m. - Cano ropes a double off the wall in center. That guy can hit. Time to start chipping away.

5:30 p.m. - What can you say about Posada? He's just not getting it done right now.

5:33 p.m. - Berkman rips an RBI single off Moreland's glove at first, then gets into the most un-athletic rundown in baseball history. He's out, but the Yanks are on the board at 5-1. Chip, chip, chip.

5:39 p.m. - Joe Girardi hates his job. He just looks pained at all times. Makes you wonder if he pulls the, "I just need to take a year off" route.

5:43 p.m. - Not a good series for Vladdy so far. He lines out to right, and it turns into a double play when Hamilton was off with the pitch. 5-1 heading to the fifth.

5:48 p.m. - My friend Bob on Ron Washington: "He kind of looks like Richard Pryor if he was still alive." Well, he's not wrong.

5:50 p.m. - Trying to put this kindly: Texas Rangers fans are hideous looking. That wasn't kindly. Forget it.

5:56 p.m. - Mark Teixeira's goal this season is to make me cry, I'm certain. If so, mission accomplished ... JERK!

5:58 p.m. - Would love to know why Phil Hughes is still playing baseball right now.

6:00 p.m. - Kinsler ropes an RBI triple and it's 6-1. Again, I have no idea why Hughes was still in this game.

6:01 p.m. - Hughes done. Not looking forward to seeing him again, either.

6:09 p.m. - Classic Joba. Flashes you his potential with back-to-back strikeout, then gives up a two-strike single to some guy named Mitch Moreland. Brutal.

6:10 p.m. - Note to self: Live blogging only good idea in theory.

6:17 p.m. - Cano hits a bomb into the upper deck and it's 7-2. He's turning the ALCS into his coming-out party.

6:26 p.m. - Berkman draws a walk to make it first and second in the sixth. Ron Washington itches his nose then comes and gets Lewis. Big chance for Yanks to get back in game here.

6:28 p.m. - Marcus Thames gets the call to pinch-hit. This is a, "Hit a three-run shot, dude" move, all the way.

6:30 p.m. - Thames seeing the ball well right now.

6:34 p.m. - Thames works it to 3-2, then fans on a changeup. Another opportunity goes by the boards.

6:38 p.m. - Hey, a David Robertson sighting!

6:44 p.m. - Robertson strikes out two in a scoreless sixth. This dude is good.

6:47 p.m. - How would the Yankees lineup do against Mariano Rivera? Poorly. They would do poorly. Next question.

6:50 p.m. - Jeter draws a walk to lead off the seventh. A good start for sure.

6:52 p.m. - Wow, Rangers fans. Breaking out the "Yankees Suck" chant again? Didn't we learn our lesson yesterday? Anyway, Granderson pops out and there's one down.

6:53 p.m. - Hey Mark Teixeira ... DO SOMETHING.

6:57 p.m. - Andrus can't corral A-Rod's shallow fly ball and the Yankees have another chance to get back into the game with Cano coming up. Robbie is locked in right now, a good spot.

7:00 p.m. - What's a "clutch call", John Smoltz?

7:01 p.m. - Cano strikes out on a fastball waaaay out of the strike zone. There won't be any comeback today.

7:03 p.m. - For the record, Teixeira is 15-for-82 for the Yankees in the postseason. That's .183.

7:05 p.m. - Did you know that Kid Rock was born free? So was I, but you don't see me writing bad songs about it.

7:15 p.m. - If the Yankees figure out a way to win this game, Robin Ventura better find a closet to hide in.

7:16 p.m. - I love seeing Darren Oliver.

7:28 p.m. - I can't wait to kick Cliff Lee's ass on Monday. Well, not me, but you know what I mean. Shut up.

7:32 p.m. - Looking ahead, it goes without saying the Yankees need a good start out of Pettitte on Monday. Sabathia and Hughes have fallen woefully short, and the needs a starter to stand up to this Texas lineup.

7:35 p.m. - Back to Sabathia and Hughes: Hard to make sense of both their performances. Sabathia was well rested. Hughes had tremendous past success against the Rangers. It does show you that nothing in baseball can be assumed. Remember that if you've already penciled in Cliff Lee for a Game 3 win.

7:41 p.m. - Five stolen bases on Posada today. Kind of sad.

7:59 p.m. - Cano up with men on second and third trying to keep it alive.

7:01 p.m. - Ballgame. 7-2. Blerg.

7:03 p.m. - Not a good showing today, but they got the split, which is really all you're asking for in this situation. Starting pitching needs to get better or Yanks have no shot. Incredibly fortunate to not be in deep trouble right now.

Thanks for reading everybody. Check in with the blog tomorrow for more insight.

Dan Hanzus writes the Yankees blog River & Sunset and can be reached at Follow Dan on Twitter @danhanzus.

ALCS Game 1: A Comeback To Remember For Yankees

In the 1999 movie Unbreakable, the character played by Samuel L. Jackson explained that the incredible fragility of his bone structure, the reason he was derisively known as Mr. Glass, was directly tied to the fact that Bruce Willis' character was seemingly invincible.

Mr. Glass reasoned that if there's someone in the world who represents the extreme on one end, then the universe must have a person somewhere who represents the opposite end of the spectrum.

It made Jackson and Willis natural foes, and their relationship served as the crux of one of the last decent movies M. Night Shyamalan made before people started exiting theaters saying things like, "Hey, how long do you think M. Night has been hiding his brain injury?"

I bring this up because if you caught the camera shot of Nolan Ryan after the Yankees rallied to go ahead of the Rangers on Friday night — rotten scowl, arms folded, chin melded to his chest — you know that I was 1,500 miles away with the exact opposite expression.

If you've been caught off-guard by this resourceful, tenacious side of the Yankees, you're not alone. This was a championship-caliber win, the type of victory I never thought this team had in them as recently as 10 days ago.

CC Sabathia gets knocked out of the game after four innings, you expect to lose. Your offense goes silent for six straight innings to begin the game, you figure you have no shot. Fall down five runs, on the road, in a playoff game, you should probably pack it in. And yet, the Yankees will wake up on Saturday morning with a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven ALCS.

It couldn't have been done without the following people:

Dustin Moseley: The casual Yankee fan sitting next to you at the bar had no idea who Moseley was when he entered the game. Even you may have only known the right-hander as the guy who is (slightly) better than Chad Gaudin. But Moseley's two scoreless innings turned out to be huge for a Yankee team that trailed 5-0 by the time Sabathia was pulled from the game. Moseley was credited with his first postseason victory. It was much deserved.

Brett Gardner: He's gritty, he's gutty, and now he has his signature moment as a Yankee. Gardner's hustle infield single leading off the eighth inning — including poorly thought-out headfirst slide! — seemed harmless at the time, but it became the spark that ignited the Yankees' winning rally. Bonus points are in order for Gardy giving Craig Sager the "You don't expect me to take you seriously?" look throughout his postgame interview.

Derek Jeter: I wrote on Wednesday that I thought that Jeter would rise to the occasion in the ALCS; his usual October brilliance melding with a final opportunity to gain leverage in upcoming contract negotiations. So far, so good for Jeter, who doubled twice in Game 1. His first two-bagger drove in Gardner, sending New York's classic rally into overdrive.

Alex Rodriguez: A-Rod was having a night to forget until the top of the eighth (0-for-3, error), when his bases-loaded double quieted the Arlington crowd and drew the Yankees within one run. It was type of hit that Rodriguez regularly delivered during the 2009 postseason, and it proved No. 13's flair for the dramatic remains intact.

Ron Washington: I don't want to be too hard on Washington, who was betrayed by his bullpen and probably would be a great dude to listen to old jazz records with. But his decision not to turn to Neftali Feliz as the game unraveled in the eighth was ripe for first-, second- and third-guessing. Having a lefty come in to face Marcus Thames in a tie game wasn't the wisest move, either.

Ian Kinsler: Can't get picked off there, bro. Just can't happen. This is the playoffs, meat.

President George W. Bush: In fairness, Dubya wasn't really to blame for the Rangers' mess, but his attendance at the game did lead to the tweet of the night by ESPN the Magazine senior writer @jorgearangure: "I bet George W Bush authorized a sign that read "Mission Accomplished" after the 7th inning." Ouch.

Mariano Rivera: You can gauge how big a win is by how Mo reacts after getting the final out. In this case, it was both a passionate fist pump and shout. That's a 9/10 on the Mo Scale. Allowing the leadoff single to pinch-hitter Mitch Moreland led to some tense moments, but Rivera got it done like he has so many times before. Beating Michael Young and Josh Hamilton to end it was no easy feat, the G.O.A.T. just made it look that way.

Stray thoughts:

  • It seemed like glorified mop-up duty at the time, but at least Joba Chamberlain can finally say he has a place in the 2010 postseason. Pretty amazing that he's went from future of the franchise to playoff fringe guy in little over a year. Will this reality serve as a wake up call that makes him work harder to improve himself in the offseason? Or are we watching the start of a descent into oblivion? Vegas has even odds.
  • Derek Jeter Contract Watch: Four years, $52 million (up one year, $7 million since beginning of ALCS).
  • Must admit I was pretty disappointed by Sabathia's performance. There was an undeniable Chien-Ming-Wang-in-'07-ALDS stench to the whole proceedings. Clearly the layoff affected him, but he seemed genuinely rattled at times as well. The big man needs to be better. A lot better.
  • Funny how the "Yankees suck!" chants in Arlington died down by the late innings. Weird how that works.
  • Will be interesting to see how Rangers bounce back from a truly wretched defeat. A weaker team (see: Twins, Minnesota) would lay down and die after a loss like that. We'll find out how Washington's bunch reacts on Saturday.
  • Phil Hughes' career numbers in Arlington: 15 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 4 BB, 13 K, 1 no-hitter ruined by a douchechill hamstring. I'm just sayin' ...
  • Important River & Sunset program note: I will be live blogging Game 2 of the ALCS right here on Saturday at 4 p.m. ET. Join me won't you?

Dan Hanzus writes the Yankees blog River & Sunset and can be reached at Follow Dan on Twitter @danhanzus.