I spied Guastavo in Kissimmee. The sighting was, given the clarity of a Florida morn, a glimpse out of the blue, like a Golden-crowned Warbler in the states. The proper name of this rare bird is Gustavo Adolpho Chacin, a left-handed pitcher last seen in parts around major league baseball in 2007, best known for winning 13 games at age 24 for the 2005 Blue Jays.
FT. MYERS, Fla. -- The Red Sox badly wanted to re-balance their team, and they have done that in a big way, remaking the left side of their infield and outfield and turning their overall defense from a so-so one into a superb one.
TAMPA -- This is a new, more frugal Yankees team, one that kept their payroll to only $200 million, that declined to keep Johnny Damon and that spent more than $400 million less this year than last on new free agents.
Here we sit in the great gray middle of February, the dead zone on the annual professional sports calendar. The Super Bowl is in the rear view mirror, the NHL has taken a break for the Olympics, and all the big gyms are dark during the interminable NBA All-Star break.
Three makes a trend, so if you haven't yet you're surely going to soon read articles going on at length about the glory that is teams in small or poor cities keeping young ace pitchers. Be skeptical -- you may see Justin Verlander whipping curves in pinstripes yet.
How can a club compete when it has the misfortune of playing in a division that also includes the two highest-revenue clubs in Major League Baseball? The answer for the Baltimore Orioles, for the past dozen seasons anyway, has been: It can't. Since 1997, when the Orioles won the American League East before losing a six game ALCS to the Cleveland Indians, they have endured 12 consecutive sub-.500 seasons, and have just once finished better than fourth in the division -- never once winning more games in a year than did the Yankees or the Red Sox.
Free agent outfielder Randy Winn and the New York Yankees have agreed to a one-year, $2 million contract for 2010, SI.com has confirmed.
"But this is the point I want to make: When you talk about steroids and you talk about what it means to the game, the three greatest home run hitters of all time -- Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth and Willie Mays, right? When they were 39 years old, how many home runs do you think they averaged? The three greatest home run hitters of all time averaged 18 home runs at age 39. Now, how many home runs did Barry Bonds hit when he was 39? He hit 73!"
The Yankees left little doubt that they were the team of the last decade, but what team was the most efficient from 2000 through 2009? Did the Yankees get the most bang for their 1.6 billion bucks or did someone else win more efficiently? And which team wasted enough money to claim the title of the least efficient team of the decade? The answers might surprise you -- and that means you at the players association, too -- especially because the most and least efficient teams are not determined solely by market size.
The Blue Jays are showing keen interest in Cuban defector Aroldis Chapman, and sources indicate their offer of about $20 million could make them the leader in about a six-team scramble for the left-handed pitcher with a decision possibly only a few days away. The Nationals, Marlins, Red Sox, A's and Angels are among other teams with some level of interest, though it isn't known whether any of them can top the Jays' bid, which was actually pegged at $23 million Friday by El Nuevo Herald and could even grow to $25 million.
Whatever your state of mind or current location, there is probably a remix of the Jay-Z/Alicia Keys ode to New York City "Empire State of Mind" available for your listening pleasure and localized for your hometown.
NEW YORK (AP) -- When Javier Vazquez last threw a pitch for the New York Yankees, it was a nadir in the team's storied history. He gave up two homers to Johnny Damon, including a key grand slam, as the Yankees lost Game 7 of the 2004 AL championship series to Boston.
How can a three-team trade involving two of the five best pitchers in baseball leave so many questions about who won and who lost? It's a mystery, but Philadelphia, Seattle and Toronto managed it this week in the most convoluted and entertaining trade of the decade.
The Yankees are getting closer to an agreement with free-agent first baseman Nick Johnson for a one-year contract worth about $5.5 million. If the deal is consummated, Johnny Damon's chances to return to the Yankees would be diminished, according to Yankees people.
It could have been any other night at the Aspen Social Club in midtown Manhattan, except on this evening more than 100 New Yorkers mixed, mingled and sipped free booze for the worthy cause of providing toys for kids in need.
Free agent reliever Mike Gonzalez has agreed to a two-year, $12 million contract with the Orioles, SI.com has learned.
The Red Sox are reportedly close to finalizing a deal with free agent Angels ace John Lackey said to be comparable to A.J. Burnett's contract with the Yankees, in the neighborhood of $85 million over five years. The deal could help restore balance to both the American League East, which the Yankees won handily this past season, as well as the AL West, where the Angels would feel the loss of Lackey acutely.
The final landing spots for free-agent hitting stars Jason Bay and Matt Holliday aren't known yet, but one thing seems true about both star players: Neither appears any closer today to remaining with his old team than when the offseason began.
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) -- The Tampa Bay Rays have completed a trade with the Atlanta Braves, acquiring right-handed pitcher Rafael Soriano and signing the reliever to a $7.25 million, one-year contract.
INDIANAPOLIS -- It's a funny winter meetings when one of the biggest acquisitions is Peter Gammons going to MLB Network. Although, a few other significant baseball people were on the move, a lot of groundwork was laid, many offers made and some very big things started to become much clearer.
SI.com's Jon Heyman reports from baseball's winter meetings in Indianapolis, which wrapped up Thursday ...
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Curtis Granderson is all set to put on the pinstripes. Only one thing to settle: What number does he wear for the New York Yankees?
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Andy Pettitte asked himself all the important questions: Was he ready to prepare for another long year? Could he top last season? Was his family on board?
PLAYER OF THE DECADE: Albert Pujols, Cardinals Look at these numbers: .314 batting average, 40 doubles, 34 homers, 127 RBIs, 118 runs. Those numbers make up Pujols' worst season this decade. Pujols' story is already legend. He was a 13th-round pick of the Cardinals in 1999 ... meaning he was even passed over 17 times by his hometown Kansas City Royals. Eighteen months later, he began one of the great rookie seasons in baseball history (.329, 37 homers, 130 RBIs, 129 runs). He has found something to improve every season -- he cut down his strikeouts, he honed his home run swing, he improved his defense, he worked on his baserunning. In 2009 Pujols stole 16 bases, walked 115 times and hit 47 homers -- all career highs. It seems impossible, but he's getting better.
1. Alex Rodriguez to the Yankees from the Rangers for Alfonso Soriano and Joaquin Arias; Feb. 16, 2004 Rodriguez was being pursued by the Red Sox all during the winter of 2003-04. And he probably would have gone to Boston had the players union signed off on a trade that would have diminished the value of his record $252 million contract by a few million. But when all hope seemed lost, out of the blue came the blockbuster deal to the rival Yankees, the team that was truly made for baseball's biggest and best-paid star.
INDIANAPOLIS -- Superstar pitcher Felix Hernandez's intention to request about $100 million for six years in contract talks might surprise some folks in that other young star pitchers have sought far less. Zack Greinke took a $38 million, four-year contract with the Royals and Josh Johnson was reported to request about $45 million for four years from the Marlins.
Normal business activity in Boston screeched to a halt last Friday when the Red Sox announced there were holding a press conference at Fenway regarding a "major announcement.''
The Red Sox filled their void at shortstop with veteran Marco Scutaro, who agreed to a two-year contract plus a club option for a third, SI.com has confirmed.
As he prepared to begin his second major league season last April, Evan Longoria was asked how he could build on a terrific debut season in 2008 that ended with a Rookie of the Year award for himself and an unexpected World Series trip for the Rays. He suggested it wouldn't be that hard to hit 30 home runs and drive in 100 runs. Two days later, Rays coaches had Longoria out in center field and called him out in front of the rest of his teammates for being so boastful.
Baseball America ranks the 30 MLB farm systems twice a year -- in the spring, as the minor league season is about to start, and again every December in our Prospect Handbook.
Star Blue Jays pitcher Roy Halladay, who hopes his current residence in trade limbo will be resolved within the next couple of months, will be pleased to hear that the Jays have engaged the Yankees in at least initial trade talks. According to sources, Toronto officials mentioned at least four Yankees players and minor leaguers that interested them when the teams spoke recently: Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, catching prospect Jesus Montero and outfield prospect Austin Jackson.
Everyone knows who the top players are on the free-agent and trade markets this winter: John Lackey, Matt Holiday, Jason Bay, Roy Halladay and perhaps Adrian Gonzalez. But who are the players behind the players? With a week to go before the start of the winter meetings in Indianapolis, here are the players who are expected to be the real movers and shakers this winter ...
Since breaking into the big leagues in 1995, Derek Jeter has been the subject of coutless stories and features in Sports Illustrated. Below are excerpts from some of the more noteworthy pieces: New York ... New York By Gerry Callahan, May 6, 1996 Across the Triborough Bridge the Yankees believe that they too have found themselves a purebred shortstop. On Opening Day in Cleveland, 21-year-old Derek Jeter was in the Yankees' starting lineup, the 11th shortstop to start the opener in pinstripes since 1981 and the first rookie to do so since 1962, when Tom Tresh subbed for Tony Kubek, who was in the military. Jeter hit a home run in his second at bat and made a pretty nifty defensive play himself, pulling down an over-the-shoulder fly in short centerfield to save a run. Jeter is friendly and outgoing, and the only time he ducks a question is when he is asked to praise himself. He was proud to get number 2 because all the other single digits (except 6, which belongs to his manager,
TORONTO (AP) -- The Toronto Blue Jays signed shortstop Alex Gonzalez to a one-year deal worth $2.75 million on Thursday, which includes a club option for 2011.
The Yankees recently called the Blue Jays to express interest in superstar pitcher Roy Halladay. And while the Yankees made the very same call last summer with no hope of acquiring Halladay, this time they have a real reason to believe they may actually have a legitimate chance to make a blockbuster trade.
CHICAGO -- The Cubs are trying hard to dump the perennially malcontented Milton Bradley here at the GM meetings, as it isn't just manager Lou Piniella who didn't connect with him in his season here. Apparently, several key members of the team -- including Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Zambrano -- barely speak to Bradley.
Breaking down each team in the AL East heading into the offseason. Teams are listed in order of 2009 finish. Check out the other division previews here:
CHICAGO -- No team is going to spend or presumably improve via free agency like the Yankees did last winter, when they doled out $423.5 million to three star players alone. Post-parade, and as the GM meetings get underway here on Monday, the only conclusion that can be drawn is that the Yankees spent wisely. But with the Yankees far less needy this winter and this year's free-agent list less star-studded -- Matt Holliday, Jason Bay and John Lackey are the only in-their-prime players who can reasonably aim for $100 million deals and the only ones even sure to crack $50 million -- no team is expected to try to duplicate such a spending spree. Nor would one even be possible this time around.
The remarkable thing about baseball in the 21st century is that there really is no break in the action any longer. On the first day after the World Series ended, we had one trade, one near-trade, and the news that one of the top potential free agents, Bobby Abreu, would not be reaching the market. So even as the Yankees celebrate with a parade and the Phillies pack up a season two wins short of their goal, both front offices are looking ahead to 2010 and the decisions that will have to be made to get the teams back to the World Series.
Before the 2007 season, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman had T-shirts made up that read "Mission 27." It was just one more piece of motivation for a franchise that defines itself by a singular annual goal -- winning the World Series -- and a reminder that anything less than achieving that goal is a failure.
You're either with them -- or you hate them. That sums up the way baseball fans feel about the New York Yankees. And that's also why the team, which clinched its 27th World Series on Wednesday night, is the Goldman Sachs of American sports.
The following is a screed about the Yankees' payroll. If you are a Yankees fan uninterested in a screed about the payroll, don't read it. You won't enjoy it. Go out, buy a championship T-shirt, reminisce about this great team, enjoy the victory. I'm telling you: Don't read it.
NEW YORK -- The aroma that one perceived, as one walked off the field and inside toward the home clubhouse in the moments after the Yankees had won their 27th World Series on Wednesday night, was strong. It was one part expensive perfume, and one part expensive champagne, and it was unmistakable. It was Eau de WAG.
The New York Yankees, who became World Series champs for the 27th time Wednesday night, logged the highest payroll in baseball for the 2009 season. This time, they definitely got what they paid for.
NEW YORK -- The unique Yankees foursome of Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada probably didn't need to win one more World Series together to prove anything. But they did, anyway. And they did it 13 years after their first one together. No other foursome can say that.
NEW YORK -- The Yankees clubhouse reeked of champagne, it smelled the way you might imagine Don Ho's living room used to smell. Well, this is what you get when you win a World Series. Here Mariano Rivera stood in the doorway waiting for family. There Mark Teixeira wore goggles and talked about how God led him to the right team. Over there two Yankees players prepared to double-team Johnny Damon with a champagne attack. The sound was laughter and happy souts and the popping of champagne corks.
NEW YORK -- The Yankees christened the first season in their new ballpark the same way they opened their old stadium in 1923: with a World Series championship.
"Mr. Steinbrenner deserves another championship." --Joe Girardi, after the Yankees won the pennant
1. So the World Series comes down to this: the old and familiar. Stop me if you have heard this before: a Yankees team with Andy Pettitte, Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera trying to get through Pedro Martinez to a world championship. Game 5 barely was over in Philadelphia when even Jeter, rarely reflective, immediately understood that the World Series is reduced to a most familiar confrontation, an old narrative well told.
The Pirates will acquire second baseman Akinori Iwamura in a trade with the Rays, SI.com has confirmed. The trade could be announced Tuesday night.
PHILADELPHIA -- While the Yankees have to be considered a fairly heavy favorite with only one win needed as they head back to the Bronx, the Phillies still have some characteristically serious fight in them. Until last rites are read to the Phillies, they should be assumed to have plenty of life.
PHILADELPHIA -- The biggest catchphrase in this World Series, besides instant replay of course, is short rest. Who's getting it? Who's giving it? Who's refusing it? Charlie Manuel did not ask Cliff Lee to pitch on short rest in Game 4 and the Phillies lost. Joe Girardi did ask A.J. Burnett to pitch on short rest in Game 5 and the Yankees lost. Both managers exposed themselves to criticism even though they made exact opposite moves.
Mr. October is taken. So is Mr. November. Chase Utley will have to settle for a historic hot streak that has helped push the World Series to a Game 6 for the first time in six years.
The World Series may not be over, but many fans of the defending Philadelphia Phillies are apparently giving up, leading to a plunge in the asking price for tickets being sold through ticket reselling Web sites.
PHILADELPHIA -- For opposing pitchers, the Yankees offense must seem as unwelcome and inevitable as the onset of winter. It's going to arrive sooner or later, and when it does, it's going to last a long time, it's going to be brutal and it's going to send you scurrying for cover. The Yankees 8-5 win in Game 3 of the World Series on Saturday night brought the 2009 baseball season ever closer to its winter slumber. That the end seems near is due largely to the way Yankees bats finally emerged from their own somnambulant state to take a 2-1 lead in the Series.
Andy Pettitte gave up more runs than he had in any of his first three starts this postseason but got them back by singling home the tying run and scoring the go-ahead tally.
NEW YORK -- The fabulous Phillies were unfazed by their Game 2 defeat that left the World Series even. This team does not lack confidence. Star shortstop Jimmy Rollins was asked whether he still believed in his prediction of a five-game Phillies victory after the Yankees' 3-1 Game 2 victory, and Rollins responded, nonchalantly, "If that's what it takes."
The pair treat World Series fans - and players - to a raucous rendition of "Empire State of Mind"
So let's start here: I don't buy it. I don't buy that a person with a beating heart and fully operational stomach and sweat glands in his palms could pitch his first World Series game and not feel nervous. Not at all? And this wasn't just any World Series game. This was Game 1 of the World Series, and this was against the New York Yankees, and this was at Yankee Stadium. Not nervous? Ridiculous. Inhuman. I don't buy it. Heck, I'm nervous writing this column.
NEW YORK -- Even when he caught a ball behind his back, Cliff Lee merely shrugged.
Back in 1977, when the New York Yankees won their first World Championship in 15 years, they had a team filled with ex-Cleveland Indians. Or anyway, it felt that way as a kid growing in up Cleveland.
NEW YORK -- Star Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins, an amateur Jimmy the Greek, says his Phillies are going to win the World Series in five games. Rollins is on a few-year roll with his predictions, although the Yankees generally seemed more amused than concerned about Rollins' latest. "Nostradamus,'' Jorge Posada called him, though it was hard to tell whether Posada was lauding or mocking Rollins.
To read Lee Jenkins' five reasons the Phillies will win, click here.
To read Ben Reiters' five reasons why the Yankees will win, click here.
Before the ALCS and NLCS, I identified the players on each of the four teams who had underperformed in the opening round of the playoffs and thus needed to step up their performance to help their teams win their respective league pennants. With another round in the books, here are the players on the two pennant winners who remain concerns heading into the World Series.
1. Let's be honest: The Angels didn't show well in New York. In three games at Yankee Stadium, Los Angeles went 0-3, committed seven errors, walked 17 batters and looked jittery. I am starting to believe that there really is something to my East Coast Baseball theory. West Coast teams went 1-6 this postseason in New York, Philadelphia and Boston. That makes West Coast teams 3-19 (.136) when they come to the Northeast for postseason baseball since 2003, and 10-38 (.208) in the wild-card era. The advantage may be that Northeast teams play in postseason-type environments all year long, where baseball means so much to the fan base that every 0-for-12 streak is a two-hour talk radio rant.
NEW YORK -- This Yankees team is a lot like many past pin-striped champions, with its emphasis on pitching, power and payroll. And although it'd been six years since the storied franchise's last trip to the World Series, in another reminder of past champions, Mr. Steinbrenner recalled the usual script. Only this time it was the young Mr. Steinbrenner, Prince Hal, who sounded in celebration like he was impersonating his father.
1. As the postseason began, Cardinals pitcher John Smoltz gave me a stunning piece of advice about how to stop the Yankees this October. Remember, it was the powerful New York lineup that knocked Smoltz clear out of the American League and very nearly all the way into retirement with a resounding thumping back in August.
It was 12:01 a.m. when the clock struck midnight for the Los Angeles Angels. It is, of course, somewhat ridiculous to cast a club with the game's seventh-highest payroll ($116.7M), and one that won the second-most games (97), in a Cinderella role. But there was a sense that if the Angels somehow won two in a row and took the series, it would be a shocking accomplishment. Not the equivalent of the Red Sox' recovery from a 3-0 deficit to win the 2004 ALCS, perhaps, but something close to it.
NEW YORK -- The pitching line could have been from nearly any of the past dozen Yankees' postseasons: Win, Andy Pettitte; Save, Mariano Rivera.
Cuban defector Aroldis Chapman will be at ALCS Game 6 at Yankee Stadium as a guest of the Yankees, sources said.
Phil Coke and Mariano Rivera wrapped up their pregame catch shortly before 6 p.m. As Coke descended the steps of the Yankees dugout, he saw David Cone and stopped to talk, telling the former pitcher and team broadcaster, "I'm excited, I can't wait to get this game going."
In the minutes after the Angels' stunning 7-6 Game 5 victory over the Yankees Thursday night in Anaheim, the Yankees' clubhouse attendants were busy resealing with thick gray duct tape the several large cardboard boxes filled with hats and T-shirts that advertised an ALCS title. The boxes had been cut open, perhaps, after the top of the seventh, in which the Yankees all at once stormed back from a 4-0 deficit to take a 6-4 lead.
1. The Phillies suddenly are big fans of the Angels and The Weather Channel. It's not that Philadelphia would rather play Los Angeles than New York in the World Series. It's that the Phillies would benefit from both teams extending their pitching and, if rain in New York washes out Game 6 on Saturday, giving the American League champion less time to set up its pitching for the World Series.
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- You could see it in the faces of the Yankees and Angels players and managers in those moments after this game ended: They didn't know. Whatever people had to ask, they didn't know. What were they thinking? Didn't know. What did this mean? Didn't know. What were they feeling out there? Didn't know.
PHILADELPHIA -- The Toronto Blue Jays won the World Series in 1992 and 1993, but it was not until their final act that they earned true acceptance and appreciation. They had 96 wins one year, 95 the next, a very good team that fell just short of great. Then Joe Carter came to the batter's box in the bottom of the ninth inning in Game 6 of the 1993 World Series, sent a moonbeam over the left-field foul pole, and took his delirious lap around the dirt cutout at Skydome. By the time he reached home plate, the Blue Jays were a dynasty or at least something close to it.
1. Yankees catcher Jorge Posada made his answer doubly clear when asked why the Yankees are on a 5-1 postseason run after going 4-13 in their previous 17 postseason games. The difference? "Pitching. Pitching," Posada said.
ANAHEIM -- CC Sabathia's 89th pitch on Tuesday night came on an 0-2 count against Angels catcher Mike Napoli, with one out in the top of the seventh inning and Sabathia's Yankees leading 5-1. The pitch was significant not only because of its result -- Sabathia struck out Napoli on a foul tip to Jorge Posada -- but because it put Sabathia's transcendent performance into stark relief against that of the Angels' starter, Scott Kazmir, who threw 89 pitches of his own. Whereas Sabathia's first 89 pitches resulted in 20 Angels outs, Kazmir's 89 pitches produced just 12 Yankees outs, and manager Mike Scioscia pulled him after he allowed a single to the first batter he faced in the top of the fifth.
ANAHEIM -- You probably know that the New York Yankees hit their best in the late innings. Here's a little chart that shows the numbers of the Yankees offense this season:
ANAHEIM -- As dusk turned to night on Monday in southern California, one thing was clear about the Yankees' Joe Girardi as a manager: he is very, very brave. Girardi made so many questionable and unconventional decisions during Game 3 of this ALCS, and meddled with his talented club so much, that he had to know that if his Yankees somehow lost the game that he'd be lambasted by New York media and fans who don't exactly react well when unconventionality leads to failure. The Yankees lost the game, 5-4, on an RBI double by Angels catcher Jeff Mathis with two outs in the bottom of the 11th. Let the lambasting start.
The ball soared high into the misty air, reached its apex and, with two outs in the bottom of the first inning on Friday night, began to fall back to the earth where the infield at Yankee Stadium ends and leftfield begins. Angels third baseman Chone Figgins was certain that shortstop Erick Aybar would catch this routine pop-up off the bat of Hideki Matsui. The ball kept falling. Aybar was certain that Figgins would catch it. The ball kept falling. Figgins looked at Aybar. Aybar looked at Figgins. The ball kept falling. A moment after a look of panic registered on each of their faces, the ball was on the ground and Johnny Damon crossed home plate for the Yankees' second run of the inning, which would prove to be all the runs they would require to win this first game of the ALCS by the ultimate score of 4-1.
NEW YORK -- It was cold, but not freezing, and it rained, but only a little and never hard.
NEW YORK -- Well, at least the umpires have to be feeling a tiny bit better today. Turns out they aren't the only ones who are human in this mistake-filled October.
1. Even without a rainout, the Yankees or Angels could become world champions by playing 11 games in 28 days without ever being scheduled to play three days in a row. Springsteen would be embarrassed by that schedule, and he just turned 60. That's why if you're a baseball fan, you root for rainouts the next two nights in New York.
The Yankees' on-field celebration after sweeping away the Twins last Sunday night in Minnesota was among the more stilted in recent memory. In the seconds after Brendan Harris' groundout to Derek Jeter ended both the game and the series, most of the Yankees jogged to the area behind the pitchers' mound and more or less stood there, before someone decided that they should probably jump up and down for awhile. So they did that in a huddle for perhaps 30 seconds. Then they stopped and shook hands and gradually retreated into the visitors' clubhouse.
Another critical piece of the Washington Nationals efforts to rebuild their operations abroad was put into place Wednesday afternoon when Boston Red Sox Latin American coordinator Johnny DiPuglia accepted a position as the Nationals director of international operations.
1. How is Mariano Rivera looking right about now? Not that we didn't already know that the Yankees closer is the best all-time at what he does, but the Division Series, in which closer after closer blew up in the ninth inning, showed why Rivera has been the team's ultimate weapon all these years.
MINNEAPOLIS --- About forty-five minutes after Mariano Rivera induced the weak groundout from Brendan Harris that ended this American League Division Series, a few Twins fans lingered in some hidden corner of the Metrodome, testing, for one last time, the stadium's acoustics. "Let's go, Twinkies!" they yelled, their voices echoing throughout the ballpark, well after workers had dug up home plate and had begun to pull the advertisements down from the outfield wall. It was the last time that those words will ever be shouted here.
1. Charlie Manuel caught a break. The postponement of tonight's Phillies-Rockies game saved the Philadelphia manager from having to throw his worst cold-weather pitcher on the coldest of days. Pedro Martinez had been scheduled to start, despite a forecast calling for 34 degrees and the always-unpleasant "ice pellets." Not the best of scenarios for the 37-year-old native Dominican, who has had arm trouble in recent years and has often spoken about his affinity to pitch in warm weather.
1. Boston's offense looked anemic in Anaheim, but the truth is that the Red Sox have had a mediocre offense on the road all year. They hit only .257 away from home this season -- 27 points worse than they hit at Fenway Park -- and their slugging percentage was 80 points lower. They scored three runs or fewer on the road 33 times and were 4-29 in those games. They had a losing record (39-42) overall on the road.
The baseball is compelling, the umpiring dreadful.
This was the one, the Minnesota Twins were thinking. This had to be the one. Five times this season, before Game 2, the Twins had raced out to leads at Yankee Stadium, and five times the Yankees had ultimately broken their hearts. Never before, though, had the Twins had so many chances. Never before had the heartbreak been so agonizing.
They teach it in Salt Lake City, Little Rock, Cedar Rapids and 40 miles down the road in Rancho Cucamonga, a breakneck brand of baseball known as the Angel Way. It is highly entertaining -- stolen bases, hit-and-runs, speed merchants rushing from first to third in a blur -- but come playoff time it has been highly suspect.
1. Angels right-hander John Lackey dominated the Red Sox lineup in ALDS Game 1 predominantly by throwing fastballs in what turned out to be a 5-0 win for Los Angeles. Should you be surprised that Boston was shut out for the first time in a postseason game since 1995, so long ago that Orel Hershiser started that game for Cleveland? Well, maybe not. This is not your usual grind-it-out offense for Boston, especially when the Red Sox have to play outside of Fenway Park.
NEW YORK -- A.J. Burnett is the key to the Yankees' postseason.
If the baseball playoffs are truly a crapshoot (as some contend), well then the 1996-2000 Yankees got awfully lucky. And nobody gets that lucky. Good fortune is always a help, of course, and few figured that the 2003 Marlins or 2006 Cardinals would prevail. But that doesn't mean those teams won on luck. Perhaps we just need better prognosticators. With that in mind, here are my seedings from one through eight (as you can guess, my first-round winners are the Yankees, Red Sox, Phillies and Dodgers).
One of the things people sometimes miss about the Miracle Mets story of 1969 is just how good the Baltimore Orioles were that year. The Orioles were a team without apparent weakness. They won 109 games -- same record as the famed '61 Yankees. They took the division by 19 games. They showed a breathtaking array of talents in sweeping the Minnesota Twins in the first American League Championship Series.
NEW YORK -- Near the end of the Yankees' one-hour-and-45-minute workout on Tuesday, as workers swept and power-washed new Yankee Stadium's concourses in anticipation of its first-ever playoff game on Wednesday evening, a driving, drum-heavy rock song blared over the ballpark's P.A. system. Some quick Internet research revealed the song to be something called Uprising, by a band named Muse. "Rise up and take the power back," the singer bellowed melodramatically, while the Yanks shagged fly balls and took batting practice. "It's time the fat cats had a heart attack/ You know that their time's coming to an end/ We have to unify and watch our flag ascend."
The Angels and Red Sox are not traditional rivals, but their playoff meetings are becoming an annual occurrence, with the Red Sox prevailing and the Angels wondering why they can't ever draw someone else. The Angels, traditionally built on speed, pitching and defense, have changed their approach this season, becoming more patient and powerful at the plate. In other words, they have become more like the Red Sox, in the hope of finally outlasting them. The matchup between L.A.'s rejuvenated offense and Boston's stellar starting pitchers -- particularly Jon Lester and Josh Beckett -- will determine if the Angels have caught up to their October rivals or if nothing has really changed.
Like many non-New Yorkers, I root against the Yankees. It's been a losing proposition in recent years -- last season was the first time they missed the playoffs since the 20th century.