Five Cuts from a Father's Day edition of interleague play:
A Panama native nicknamed "Mo," who endeared himself to New Yorkers with a cut fastball that baffled baseball's finest sluggers, is faced with the prospect of an unceremonious end to his illustrious 18-year career.
Few scenarios in baseball are so unnerving as the lack of reliable late-inning relief, and few places are so inhospitable to that uncertainty as the back pages of the New York tabloids.
Growing up in New York City, there are a few things I never imagined myself doing, like driving a car, living in a house or attending big high school games like the ones I'd seen on TV.
DUNEDIN, Fla. (AP) -- David Robertson limped out of the Yankees clubhouse in Tampa, holding a pair of crutches, his right foot in an oversized black boot.
Prince Fielder still doesn't have a team, but already he is almost assuredly about to set a record this year. No free agent ever has signed a nine-figure contract this late in the offseason.
The great modern Yankees teams played with such equanimity and honor that Oakland general manager Billy Beane once said it was as if they beat you wearing tuxedos. This aura of cold-blooded assurance came largely from the miens of Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera, who seemed to come through at every postseason turn and be not the least bit surprised that they did. Their manager, Joe Torre, gave voice to such calm.
This week, SI.com will analyze the offseason plans for each team in a division-by-division format. Wednesday will preview the National League and Thursday the American League. Teams are listed in order of finish in 2011.
NEW YORK -- All around him was chaos. Small boys -- and grown men acting like small boys -- were bouncing around the room, spraying what had to be the cheapest alcohol-free wine in New York City, and old men were turning the hallway outside the Detroit Tigers clubhouse into their personal cigar bar and yet no one was calmer than Delmon Young -- not counting the sleeping infant being held in his mother's arms.
NEW YORK -- The Yankees' time is up for 2011. But Alex Rodriguez has six more years, at $30 million per no less (plus another $30 mil more in milestone monies to come). It's tough to say which thought was less appealing here on Thursday night.
For only the second time in the wild card era, and the first time since 2001, there will by three Game 5s in the Division Series. The first comes Thursday night in the Bronx, where the Yankees will play in their first double-elimination game since losing Game 5 of the ALDS to the Angles in 2005, and the Tigers will play their first since losing Game 5 of the 1972 ALCS to the A's.
DETROIT -- And then ... A.J. Burnett successfully saved the Yankees' season.
Five thoughts on the Division Series:
The Texas Rangers advanced to the American League Championship Series (ALCS) on Tuesday after sealing a 3-1 win over Tampa Bay Rays in the first round of the Major League Baseball (MLB) playoffs.
All four Division Series are in action tonight, and three of them involve teams facing elimination. The Diamondbacks return home hoping to avoid a sweep at the hands of the Brewers, while the Phillies and Cardinals will break a 1-1 tie in St. Louis, and the Rays and Yankees hope to force a Game 5 after losing tie-breaking Games 3 on Monday night.
Five cuts on the Division Series:
DETROIT -- There's no script in postseason baseball. So why do we keep trying to write one?
Cliff Corcoran will preview each day's games at SI.com throughout the postseason.
NEW YORK -- Game time was fast approaching, and it was difficult not to look at the sprawling expanse of Yankee Stadium in all its vivid colors and see black-and-white. It was 61 degrees early on an early October afternoon before a postseason game, with bunting ringing the decks of the three-tiered ballpark and a living, breathing Yankees legend striding to the mound to throw the first pitch of the day.
NEW YORK -- The denizens on the D train, fueled by enough beer but not enough baseball as it rumbled away from a soggy Yankee Stadium, didn't seem to mind. Neither did the two managers, one of whom, the Yankees' Joe Girardi, did almost as much giggling as talking in his post-"game" press conference and the other of whom, the Tigers' Jim Leyland, opened his remarks with a joke of his own ("Heck of a game. It was great."). And, if the grinning faces and shrugging shoulders of Ivan Nova and Justin Verlander, two of the players most affected by the bizarre developments Friday night at Yankee Stadium, were any indication, the players weren't the slightest bit fazed.
While everyone was watching the Cardinals, Rays, Red Sox and Braves, the Tigers were quietly staging a late surge of their own, going 38-16 (.704) over the season's final two months and 20-6 (.769) in September to win the American League central by a whopping 15 games over the course-corrected Indians, the biggest division lead in baseball this season. Still, that wasn't enough to give them homefield advantage in the playoffs, so they travel to the Bronx to face the Yankees in the postseason for just the second time in franchise history and a rematch of their last Division Series in 2006. The Yankees, meanwhile, posted the American League's best record this season, going 97-65 on the strength of the second-best offense in baseball and, surprisingly, the third-best pitching staff in the AL according to runs scored and allowed.
The final day of the 2011 regular season has arrived and still neither league's wild card has been determined. In the American League, the Rays and Red Sox both won on Tuesday night to remain tied with identical 90-71 records. In the National League, the Cardinals pulled even with the Braves by digging out of an early 5-0 hole to beat the Astros 13-6, while Atlanta was solidly defeated by the Phillies 7-1.
Here in the northeast corner of America, where the Hub of the Universe and the City That Doesn't Sleep stare at one another from a distance of 200 miles, the popular notion is that the Red Sox and Yankees are among the frontrunners to win the 2011 World Series.
The start of September should be the time of year that the pennant races are heating up, but with an average of just 25 games left on each team's schedule, only one playoff spot is currently being decided by less than 5 ½ games, leaving the pennant races lukewarm at best. For all intents and purposes, the Red Sox, Yankees, Phillies, Braves and Brewers have their postseason spots locked up, each exceeding a 98 percent chance of a playoff berth per Baseball Prospectus's playoff odds.
Less than a month after their most recent encounter at Fenway Park, the Yankees and Red Sox are set for another showdown in Boston. Here are five things you need to know about the possible playoff preview between the AL's two best teams that starts on Tuesday night:
Blue Jays star Jose Bautista deserves strong consideration for the American League MVP award, and if someone thinks he's the MVP because he's been the best player in the league, that's understandable.
Someone forgot to tell the Yankees that run scoring is down this year.
On Sunday, you could have flown from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C., and watched all of Gone With the Wind and quite a bit of Gandhi en route, while simultaneously undergoing -- start to finish -- an in-flight sex-change operation before landing, 4 hours and 15 minutes after takeoff, in an altogether different climate, as an altogether different gender.
The past four World Series champions -- Red Sox, Phillies, Yankees and Giants -- staged an unofficial tournament of their own last weekend: Philadelphia at San Francisco and New York at Boston. Here's what we learned from the weekend's tournament of champions in which the Red Sox took two of three from the Yankees and the Phillies beat the Giants three out of four:
BOSTON -- Five Cuts from the weekend in baseball, highlighted by the Red Sox taking two of three games from the Yankees at Fenway Park to take over first place of the AL East ...
The New York Yankees surprise a group of Haitian kids visiting New York. CNN's Richard Roth reports.
The 10 Haitian students from Sts. Joachim and Anne's School in New York's Queens Village boarded the yellow school bus thinking they were headed to the library on a special school trip. When they got off, however, it wasn't at a library but at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx.
SI.com asked several current and retired SI writers to offer reflections on the best team they ever covered as sports journalists. Here's Tom Verducci on the 1998 New York Yankees:
SI.com asked several current and retired SI writers to offer reflections on the best team they ever covered as sports journalists. Here's Larry Keith on the 1978 New York Yankees:
Derek Jeter stories in the SI Vault
Pitchers always carry a considerable amount of risk in fantasy. It is why they aren't as highly sought on draft day.
NEW YORK -- The cameras will continue charging, the anticipatory DJ3K silicone bracelets will continue selling and the suspense will continue building because Derek Jeter's quest to become the first Yankee with 3,000 hits has been put on hold for at least 15 days. New York placed Jeter, who has 2,994 hits, on the disabled list Tuesday after he suffered a Grade I strain of his right calf the previous night.
The Yankees are strongly considering putting Derek Jeter on the disabled list, in part because they don't want to be shorthanded when they go to two National League ballparks for six games starting Friday.
The 2007 Yankees gave almost half their starts to pitchers 35 and older, struck out fewer batters than all but two other AL teams and lost the Division Series to Cleveland in four games. On the night of their ouster, New York GM Brian Cashman stood in the clubhouse and acknowledged the team needed younger arms with swing and miss stuff to usher in a new era of winning championships. The answers, he hoped, already were on hand: righthanders Phil Hughes, 21, Joba Chamberlain, 21, and Ian Kennedy, 22, each of whom debuted that year.
Yankees ace pitcher CC Sabathia alluded to the opt-out clause in his seven-year, $161 million contract the other day, suggesting that he held "hope'' that it might cause the Yankees to offer to extend his deal. Sabathia hasn't discussed the situation at length since declining to talk about the well-known clause upon arriving in spring training -- but competing executives say they are certain that he will use it to extend his deal or leave.
Left-Handed Relief Pitcher stories in the SI Vault
One of the most well-known sports franchises in the world is facing a lawsuit over its famous logo.
With several teams now having played as many as 18 games -- that's one-ninth of the 162-game slate -- the first inning of the 2011 season is in the books. Here, then, is a look at 10 underrated storylines of the early going, five that are trending upward and five downward:
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Rays lost their star left fielder, Carl Crawford to the rival Red Sox for $142 million, more than three times their $41 million total payroll. They lost their slugging first baseman, Carlos Pena, to the Cubs for whom he quickly became their team leader, seemingly within moments of joining them.
Which team has the best-fielding keystone combination in baseball? The answer will surprise you.
TAMPA, Fla. -- Freddy Garcia, a late signee for the Yankees rotation, appears to be the favorite for the No. 4 starters' spot. But it's anyone's guess who might be No. 5 in a Yankees rotation with as many questions as at any time in years.
A bit lost in the Albert Pujols hoopla -- update: still a Cardinal -- during the first days of spring training was the first signs of waffling by CC Sabathia. After two years of insisting that there's no way he would exercise his opt-out clause, Sabathia backed away from that stance, saying only, "I have no idea. It's still in my contract, anything can happen."
Spring training is for reporting in the best shape of one's life, believing that this year is the year, getting back into the baseball grind and -- depending on your stature as either an entrenched starter or a hopeful up-and-comer -- either hitting the tees and greens in the afternoon or fighting to have your named inked on the regular-season lineup card.
For baseball fans longing for their favorite sport after a long, cold winter, Monday's voluntary reporting date for pitchers and catchers, which marks the official start of spring training, is both a day to be celebrated and a big tease. The excitement of seeing one's favorite team together and in uniform is undermined by two weeks of drills and stretching followed by another month of meaningless games in which the starting nine typically play just five innings and pitchers are slowly stretched out, barely reaching 100 pitches by the end of March. Still, while Pitchers and Catchers might be the baseball equivalent of the Groundhog seeing its shadow, foretelling another six weeks of winter for those outside of Florida and Arizona, for discerning baseball fans, there's still plenty to see. Here then, is a quick review of what to look for in spring training this year.
If you're willing to believe that re-signing Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera were givens, the New York Yankees' primary task this offseason was shoring up their starting rotation. Though the Yankees made it all the way back to the League Championship Series last year, they did so largely despite the performance of their starting pitchers, whose collective ERA ranked 22nd in the major leagues. With Andy Pettitte expected to announce his retirement tomorrow, it can officially be said that the Yankees failed at their offseason task.
Andy Pettitte is retiring with 240 career victories and another 19 postseason wins that helped the New York Yankees regain prominence -- and win five World Series championships. But that resume might not be good enough for Pettitte make the Hall of Fame.
Andy Pettitte, whose pitching helped the New York Yankees to five World Series championships, announced his retirement from Major League Baseball at a news conference Friday morning at Yankee Stadium.
NEW YORK (AP) -- Andy Pettitte is going ahead with his decision to retire, leaving the New York Yankees with two huge holes in what appears to be a rather wobbly starting rotation.
The Yankees are again upset about comments made by Rangers owner Chuck Greenberg. This time, the Yankees believe Greenberg implied in remarks made to fans in Texas Thursday that he got one over on the storied franchise when he made his second trip to visit superstar pitcher Cliff Lee in Arkansas.
The Yankees are said to be "frozen'' while they continue to wait on Andy Pettitte's decision about whether he intends to play in 2011. Spring training is only two weeks away, and Pettitte holds the key to the storied team's entire winter. Their failure to secure Cliff Lee will still loom large no matter what Pettitte decides, but the reality is, if Pettitte returns the Yankees will field an improved team, based upon bullpen upgrades, from the club that won the AL wild card and reached the ALCS last year. If he does not, for the moment at least, their rotation will include unproven prospect Ivan Nova and journeyman Sergio Mitre.
In the 79 days since the World Series ended the Hot Stove has cooled considerably, but with 26 days remaining until pitchers and catchers report for spring training these five pressing questions still have yet to be resolved.
The New York Yankees upgraded their bullpen and surprised much of baseball by agreeing to terms with established closer Rafael Soriano to be their primary setup man for the next two years while apprenticing to become the replacement for Mariano Rivera.
Here's Yankees GM Brian Cashman to the Journal News on Jan. 7: "I will not lose our number one draft pick. I would have for Cliff Lee. I won't lose our number one draft pick for anyone else." Well, his vow was good for six days.
The biggest free-agent stars have already signed for big bucks. And while several name players remain -- Adrian Beltre, Rafael Soriano, Vladimir Guerrero, Carl Pavano, Derrek Lee and Adam LaRoche to name a half dozen notables -- there are also some relatively low-priced presents still available under the free-agent tree. For teams that saved their money for after-Christmas shopping, these players are worth a look, and probably won't cost eight figures, or in most cases even multiple years.
Here are four fallouts from the Cliff Lee signing, one for each ace in the Philadelphia rotation:
During the courtship of free-agent pitcher Cliff Lee, the term "mystery team" became a buzz phrase, a two-word summary of the classic ruse used by sports agents to generate more interest in their client and condemnation of the way the mostly behind-closed-doors process is reported, whereby leaked scraps of information are so scarce that they get overanalyzed and considered profundities.
Free agent Cliff Lee is planning to make his decision early this week, according to people familiar with negotiations. The Texas Rangers, New York Yankees and a third mystery team are all still thought to be alive as Lee deliberates the biggest player call of the winter.
In the race for free agent left-hander Cliff Lee, people familiar with the talks indicate that the the New York Yankees have a big advantage over the Texas Rangers in terms of total guaranteed dollars offered and also have one more guaranteed year currently on the table. But while it would still be a surprise to see Lee turn down the Yankees' offer, several other factors beyond money are at play here as Lee considers what are said to be three viable options, including the Arkansas resident's love of the Rangers, who play 4½ hours away from his Little Rock, Ark., home by car.
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Yankees came to the winter meetings with every intention of holding their contract offer to free agent pitcher Cliff Lee, who turns 33 next season, to six years. But as the courtship dragged at the pace of Lee's agent and not their own, and as the Boston Red Sox snagged the two best available hitters with precision strikes, New York tossed another year and a score or so of millions of dollars upon the pile.
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Timing is everything, and though the news of the Red Sox signing free-agent left fielder Carl Crawford at the winter meetings didn't break until the deadline-unfriendly time of 11:30 p.m. ET, Boston's acquisition was a perfectly executed preemptive strike aimed at their archrivals.
Walking along the New York street known as Central Park South the other afternoon, I passed a restaurant that seems to have been busy every time I have visited the city for decades.
No one would have faulted Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein if part of his offseason strategy was to approach free-agent closer Mariano Rivera, Boston's longtime nemesis through his years with the Yankees, and hand him a blank check, with instructions to fill it out to his liking.
The Yankees have reached out to top free agent outfielder Carl Crawford and are believed to be interested in meeting with him. The Yankees' top target is ace pitcher Cliff Lee, but they haven't ruled out signing both players, depending on how things break. The Yankees managed to find room for CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira and A.J. Burnett three winters ago.
The New York Yankees are close to re-signing iconic closer Mariano Rivera to a two-year deal worth close to $30 million, sources confirm. Rivera has decided to remain with the Yankees, rejecting three other offers of three years, one which is said to have been made by the rival Red Sox.
What do you do about a 36-year-old beloved franchise icon with fading defensive skills but enormous brand value? Why, of course, you give him a 15 percent raise to make sure the team benefits from his legacy. That's exactly what the Baltimore Orioles did for Cal Ripken Jr. on Opening Day 1997, a sort of global view of the player that stands in stark contrast to how the Yankees are valuing Derek Jeter at the same age.
What if his name were, oh, Frank Menechino?
Ten observations about the recently concluded general managers meetings in Orlando and the weekend's developments:
ORLANDO, Fla. -- With baseball's General Manager meetings taking place this week, some executives are complaining that the free-agent market is weak and shallow. But while that's mostly true if a team seeks a superstar in his prime, that's clearly not the case if you're looking for a certain type of specialist, especially a reliever or designated hitter. While all-around stars are sparing on the market (after Cliff Lee, Carl Crawford, Jayson Werth, Adrian Beltre, Adam Dunn, Rafael Soriano, Victor Martinez, Paul Konerko and three Yankees icons Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte, there's a distinct dropoff), teams that need strictly a bat or a late-inning arm are in luck.
Many of baseball's best young players are locked up early in their career nowadays, limiting free-agent lists to lesser lights in some recent years. But at least this year's free-agent market still contains a trio of players who will be shooting for $100-million deals (two of them should surely get it), at least a half-dozen legitimate difference-makers, a couple of iconic Yankees Hall of Famers-to-be and a number of very solid pieces -- even though it is seen by some big-league executives as only average overall, at best.
The baseball commentariat didn't like the San Francisco Giants' odds going into this year. Nor did it like them going into the stretch run, as they were behind the similar, but seemingly more talented, San Diego Padres in the NL West. Nor did it like them much going into the Division Series, the Championship Series or the World Series. Which surely makes the wins all the sweeter, and the triumph all the more deserved.
Yankees GM Brian Cashman called the re-signing of manager Joe Girardi the first order of business of what should be a very busy winter for the extremely disappointed ALCS losers. There's also the obvious hope to bring back three of the vaunted Core Four, of course, all of whom have expiring contracts. And while these are all important issues for the Yankees, the most pressing concern is something else entirely -- the importing of superstar free-agent pitcher Cliff Lee, who slipped through their mitts back in July, beat them in October and will have a tough choice between them, the incumbent American League champion Rangers and anyone else with a big bankroll who comes calling for arguably baseball's best pitcher.
It's important to learn from your mistakes, and given that we overwhelmingly picked the Yankees and Phillies to repeat as pennant winners, it seems we have a lot to learn. Here, then, are five lessons to be gleaned from the Rangers and Giants' LCS victories.
1. The Giants and Phillies didn't play yesterday, but it was a bad day for both clubs, anyway. The Texas Rangers wrapped up the ALCS with a 6-1 win over New York, thereby saving ace Cliff Lee for Game 1 of the World Series instead of having to use him in an ALCS Game 7.
Cliff Corcoran breaks down each day's games throughout the postseason.
Cliff Corcoran previews each day's games throughout the postseason.
NEW YORK -- A.J. Burnett threw a solid, skeptics-defying 97-pitch outing on Tuesday night.
Cliff Corcoran previews each day's games throughout the postseason.
As the clock ticked toward the minute at which the Yankees would have to board their bus to the airport for their plane ride back to New York on Saturday night, it was clear that Alex Rodriguez had done the math and wanted to make one thing clear: The ALCS, which the Rangers had just tied at 1-1 due to their easy 7-2 Game 2 win, was now a five-game series. This was Rodriguez's message, and we know that because he made sure to mention it in almost every answer he provided to the reporters who huddled around him.
Cliff Corcoran previews each day's games throughout the postseason.
Sports Illustrated reporter Matt Gagne spoke to Baltimore Orioles outfielder Adam Jones and Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder Chris Young to get their scouting reports of the four League Championship Series teams. Jones gave his assessment of the two American League teams, the Texas Rangers and New York Yankees, while Young offered his take on the National League clubs, the Philadelphia Phillies and San Francisco Giants.
Even last Thursday, when Yankees manager Joe Girardi's strategy of sacrificing an AL East title in order to set-up a first-round matchup with the Twins -- his club's traditional whipping boys -- instead of with Cliff Lee and the Rangers was close to paying dividends (New York then had a 2-0 series lead on Minnesota), Girardi refused to admit that this had ever been his strategy at all. In fact, he wouldn't even allow that he hadn't minded winning only the wild card if it meant that his players, many of whom are well past their salad days, received some much-needed late-season rest. "This thing has taken on legs of its own," he said, indignant. "I didn't really try to rest our guys. Just to talk about it, Alex Rodriguez played 13 days in a row. He played 15 out of the last 16 games. So yes, we were trying to get guys healthy. We had guys getting shots, we had guys that had a bad knee, bad wrist. But rest, no. We were trying to win every game we could."
The topic of whether or not Joe Girardi's Yankees went all out to win the division title still seems slightly sensitive around 161st St. and River Ave. in the South Bronx. But it shouldn't be.
NEW YORK (AP) -- Mariano Rivera got the last out, sealing yet another October triumph. Jorge Posada trotted out to mound, and the Yankees came out of the dugout in a businesslike manner to shake each other's hands.
NEW YORK -- All series long -- and this series ultimately lasted just four days, so it was not so very long, but still -- the Twins again and again talked about how close they were to breaking through against the Yankees. That they had held a lead at some point in each of their eight consecutive postseason losses against New York was a statistic to which they kept referring, as if it had a great significance. "We're in almost every ballgame," manager Ron Gardenhire said on Friday. "We haven't been able to finish them off."
MINNEAPOLIS -- "The ruling was a base hit," it was announced in the press box, about three hours and 45 minutes into Game 1 of this AL Division Series. The ruling was wrong.
I don't believe in voodoo or evil eyes or curses -- especially in sports. I never believed in the Curse of the Bambino upon the Red Sox or that a goat has cursed the Cubs. However, I do firmly believe that if there are curses, or that there should be curses, then the New York Yankees will be cursed forever, starting right now.
If the Yankees didn't officially punt a chance at a second straight AL East title in order to ensure an ALDS matchup against the Twins, as opposed to the Rangers, it was rather clear as the regular season drew to a close that they didn't mind very much if that was how things played out. In the Yankees' four games after they clinched a postseason berth on Sept. 28, even though they then trailed the Rays by just a half-game, manager Joe Girardi gave starts to the recently bad Javier Vazquez and the never good Dustin Moseley, and inked names such as Greg Golson, Ramiro Pena and Eduardo Nunez on his lineup cards.
This is Derek Jeter's time of year. I don't mean that in the typical, loaded, Derek the deity kind of way -- like he just texted the ghosts of Gehrig and DiMaggio and is ready to lead the Yankees to their rightful place atop the universe. I mean this will be the most fascinating postseason of Jeter's remarkable career. It shouldn't be about him, but it is anyway.
You've come to the right place. This is where you cut through the clutter. All you need to know to get ready for postseason baseball this year -- and the possibility for the most meaningful World Series matchup this side of Cubs-Indians -- is right here: the 10 most important postseason questions.
The Yankees were in Boston over the weekend and they did not look like a team poised to win another World Series.
No team is perfect, not even the ones that are headed for October or still have a very real chance to get there. Here are the concerns, questions and issues surrounding baseball's postseason contenders:
NEW YORK -- The Yankees' ace in the hole in their games with the Rays had been, well, their ace, the left-hander who on Thursday left the game in a very big hole.
The Yankees reaffirmed to the Rays Monday night that they are the best team in baseball, scoring runs as if on demand against a diminished Matt Garza (15 strikeouts in his past six starts). Their 8-6 victory was a reminder that the Rays have an uphill climb if they expect to wrest a home-field advantage in October. But as a playoff team, the might of the Yankees is less certain. Indeed, their postseason chances could well hinge on one player who is the oldest starting pitcher in baseball and who has thrown a total of 8 1/3 innings in the second half.
In a year of individual and team surprises, no one has surprised more folks than Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista. In no time at all, he has turned into an offensive monster. His improvement is so stark that it has triggered a bit of unfounded Internet suggestion. All we know is that this guy has suddenly become one of baseball's biggest threats, leaving the anonymity behind. Here is my list of biggest positive surprises, followed by some that are not so positive.
NEW YORK -- Placido Polanco reckons that his left elbow hurts when he hits, when he dives for a ball and really anytime he has to extend it. The Phillies third baseman has bone chips that will require offseason surgery and, he hopes, lessen the pain that he says "has been there for awhile."