NFL: Week 4 Picks

5 undefeated teams remain as we head into week 4 of the NFL season.  I went 9-7 a week ago, bringing my season total to 26-22.

Bye Week: Philadelphia and Green Bay

Thursday Night Football

  • Dolphins @ Bengals: Miami barely squeaked by the Browns last week, while the Bengals were beat down by the defending champs at home.  The Dolphins got a big day from Jarvis Landry, but inconsistency continues to plague Ryan Tannehill, who threw a pick six in the win. Cincinnati got their running game going, but still lost to 1-2 for the first time in five years.  After two very good weeks, Andy Dalton couldn’t do much against the Broncos defense. I like the Bengals at home with another good rushing game to get their second win of the season. CINCINNATI WINS

Sunday Morning Football 

  • Colts @ Jaguars: London here they come! Indianapolis got their first win of the season last week, while Jacksonville is still looking for theirs.  Andrew Luck has the uncanny ability to turn a bad day into a big day passing the ball, but the Jaguars defense isn’t the problem so far, so he’ll need help.  Blake Bortles on the other hand, has been pretty awful for Jacksonville in his third year under center. So what happens this weekend across the pond? Give me a cleaner day from Luck to lift the Colts. INDIANAPOLIS WINS

Sunday 1PM Games

  • Bills @ Patriots: Three different quarterbacks have started for New England, but that hasn’t stopped the winning.  And as for the Bills, they got their first win over a team many think, myself included, are a playoff team destined for a deep run.  Both teams got big two-touchdown games out of their number 1 running backs, so look for another day of running the clock. The Patriots have to get through one more week without Tom Brady, and while they’ve done a great job doing so, and are very, very good at home, I’m taking the road team in this one. BUFFALO WINS
  • Titans @ Texans: It was a very bad week for Houston, who not only lost their Thursday game versus New England 27-0, they learned that JJ Watt re-injured his back and will be out the rest of the year.  Tennessee’s week wasn’t much better, as they scored just 10 points in their loss to Oakland. Both teams enter action having scored the same amount of points through 3 games, but of course that’s skewed with the Texans O-fer last weekend. Marcus Mariota and Brock Osweiler have both thrown 4 interceptions so far this season, so whoever can limit mistakes has the edge. A Titans win puts them in a tie for the division early.  But I don’t think they get it, because I like the Texans skill position players better. HOUSTON WINS
  • Lions @ Bears: The Lions are 1-2, but haven’t struggled in the passing game, as Matthew Stafford has found a new weapon in Marvin Jones after Calvin Johnson called it a career in the off-season.   The silver lining there for the 0-3 Bears is that their defense has actually done okay against the pass so far this season.  Chicago got a pretty good game out of Brandon Hoyer, who finished 30-49 for 317 yards, though most of that came with the game out of hand already. Both teams have the ability to get the points in the air, and with two middling defenses, that shouldn’t be a problem.  So this game will be won in the trenches, and the edge there lies with the Lions. DETROIT WINS
  • Panthers @ Falcons: Carolina is another team I thought would have a great season, but has disappointed so far.  Thanks to the struggles of the Panthers and the rest of the NFC South, Atlanta finds themself atop the division early on in the season.  This dispite allowing 31, 28 and 32 points in their first three games.  The Falcons may not be getting sustained success in their ground game early, they are getting it when it counts.  Tevin Coleman has just 110 yards on the ground, but has 4 rushing touchdowns, including 3 on Sunday in New Orleans. Carolina entered action red-hot at home dating back to 2014, but we shut down by a red-hot Vikings defense a week ago.  I still believe in the Panthers defense, and as hot as Atlanta has been, I think Carolina gets the win on the road. CAROLINA WINS
  • Seahawks @ Jets: The good news for Jets fans? Ryan Fitzpatrick can only be better than he was a week ago. The bad news? He has to be a lot better against the top defense in the league. After scoring just 3 points against L.A. in week 2, the Seahawks exercised some demons putting up 37 against the Niners.  Russell Wilson was hobbled in the game, but still managed to leave with a nice lead.  Big games from Christine Michael and Doug Baldwin helped get the offense back on track.  New York can solace in the fact that they have had a pretty good run game all season, and while some of it came in garbage time, Seattle did allow the Niners to get over 130 yards on the ground, finding pay dirt twice.  This shouldnt be as ugly for the Jets as it was last week, but it will still be a loss. SEATTLE WINS
  • Raiders @ Ravens: Baltimore finds itself among the undefeated teams heading into week 4, in large part thanks to their defense and a good day from kicker Justin Tucker.  The Ravens are second in total defense through 3 weeks of play.  Their opponents won their 2nd game by  forcing three turnovers, with a sack after entering week 3 having allowed the Saints and Falcons to walk all over them.  So based on defenses, Baltimore should have an easy win.  But I actually like Oakland’s offense a lot more, and as someone who thinks this is a playoff team, I’ll take the Raiders in the upset. OAKLAND WINS
  • Browns @ Redskins: Cleveland should’ve gotten their first win of the season in Miami a week ago, but an inability to stop the air attack, and three missed field goals left them at 0-3. They gave themselves a shot, but couldn’t take it.  Cody Kessler’s first career start wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t very good for Cleveland, though at this point, coming out healthy is huge for the Browns. Washington did get their first win, taking down the Giants on the road. After a couple lackluster offensive weeks, Kirk Cousins let it loose and got a number of big plays in the passing game to help get that first win and move back in the right direction to defend their NFC East title.  So can the Browns get their first win this week? Yes. Will they? I don’t think so. They stayed in last week thanks to mistakes by Tannehill, but Cousins won’t make those same mistakes. WASHINGTON WINS

Sunday 4/425PM Games

  • Broncos @ Buccaneers: The Superbowl Champs are showing no signs of slowing down as they look to start the season 4-0.  Denver got off to a slow start last week against the Bengals, but came on strong late thanks to a big day from rookie quarterback Trevor Siemian.  Siemian threw four touchdown passes, including two in the fourth quarter for the win.  Not to be outdone, the Broncos are a top flight defense that held down Andy Dalton and their rushing attack.  They’ve got another tough test when they take on Jameis Winston this weekend.  The Bucs 2nd year quarterback is tied for the league lead in touchdown passes so far with 8, though he has thrown six picks to.  It won’t be a blowout, none of Denver’s games really have been, but it will be another win for the Broncos. DENVER WINS
  • Rams @ Cardinals: I’m shocked at the start the Cardinals are having at just 1-2. Carson Palmer has had a bad TD-turnover ratio through 3 weeks.   Arizona isn’t getting quite out of David Johnson on the ground, while their defense is allowing the 5th most rushing yards per game.  This is as good a week as any to get back to what they want to do in all phases as they take on their division rival Rams, who find themselves tied atop the division at 2-1.  Los Angeles has rebounded nicely from a shutout on opening day, winning their last two games.  The Rams tend to play up or down to their opponents, evident by a 9-3 home win over Seattle and a 37-32 shootout on the road in Tampa Bay.  Going off those results,  I’ll take the Cardinals at home in what should be a close game throughout between these two West foes. ARIZONA WINS
  • Cowboys @ Niners: Dallas couldn’t have asked for more from rookies Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliot through three weeks.  The Tony Romo-less Cowboys were a game-winning field-goal away from being 3-0 right now. Dez Bryant has a hairline fracture in his knee but is still expected to play this weekend.  San Francisco was manhandled in week 3, and still isn’t making a change back to Colin Kaepernick.  The biggest thing the Niners have going for them is Carlos Hyde has looked pretty good.  I like what the Caowboys have done this season, but I have a feeling about San Fran this week. It might be a bad feeling, but I’m rolling with it. SAN FRANCISCO WINS
  • Saints @ Chargers: It’s still early, but the Saints need to start picking up some wins quickly if they want to make the playoffs as I predicted they would as a wildcard team in the NFC.  The offense hasn’t been the problem.  Drew Brees is already over a 1,000 yards passing, with an 8-1 touchdown to interception ratio, though that one interception last week was a fourth quarter pick six for Brees.  New Orleans defense hasn’t been been able to stop anyone, as they’ve allowed the 2nd most total yards.  Worst at stopping the run, that’s where the Chargers will need to take advantage this week.  But without Danny Woodhead, San Diego needs Melvin Gordon to get going, so this is the perfect opportunity for that.  I like Philip Rivers, but I like Drew Brees more.  Give me the road team to get win number 1 this week. NEW ORLEANS WINS

Sunday Night Football

  • Chiefs @ Steelers: What a defensive performance put on by the Chiefs this past week! Two defensive touchdowns and six interceptions helped Kansas City get the easy win over the Jets.  The offense wasn’t great, but they didn’t need to be with that showing on defense.  Alex Smith continued to show his game management skills, and why Travis Kelce is one of the better tight ends in the league right now. They’ve got a desperate Steelers team thsi week, who didn’t score a touchdown in a week 3 beatdown by the Eagles.  After two very good weeks, DeAngelo Williams was stymied on the ground, so the rushing attack will gladly welcome back Le’Veon Bell from suspension this week. The biggest test for the Kansas City defense will be stopping Antonio Brown, but I don’t think it will matter much even if he does have a big day. KANSAS CITY WINS

Monday Night Football

  • Giants @ Vikings: This should be a battle of two unbeatens, but a late game collapse left the Giants at 2-1 heading into today.  Too many penalties, a couple late turnovers and allowing Washington to open up the field multiple times led to the home loss for New York.  They lost Shane Vereen to a triceps injury as well.  Eli Manning and company need to do more in the passing game, and they have the capability with three wide receivers.  The bad news for New York is that the Vikings are running on all cylinders right now.  Their defense has been relentless through three weeks, and despite losing starting QB Teddy Bridgewater before the season started, the offense has been very good.  Sam Bradford has come in and fit in better in two weeks then he’s done in the first few seasons of his career.  It’s going to be tough for the Giants on the road, but I like New York will figure things out and get back in the win column.  NEW YORK WINS
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NFL: Week 3 Picks

We’ve reached week 3 of the season, and still have 8 undefeated and 8 winless teams. There have also been a lot of big injuries early that will have a big impact on week 3 and beyond.  As for my picks, I’m 18-14 through 2 weeks. Here’s what I’m thinking going into week 3.

Thursday Night Football

  • Texans @ Patriots: Jimmy Garoppolo left with a shoulder injury for New England, who still managed to move to 2-0.  This was thanks in large part to Garoppolo’s 3 touchdown passes before his injury as well as a big performance from LeGarrett Blount in the run game. The Texans took down the Chiefs on the strength of their defense to move to 1-1, a stark difference from their 33-0 loss to Kansas City in the playoffs.  Without Garoppolo, I think the Texans will do enough to get another win to start off the week 3 action. HOUSTON WINS

Sunday 1pm Games

  • Ravens @ Jaguars: Baltimore got very lucky in week 2, as they overcame a 20-0 1st quarter deficit to improve to 2-0.  Cleveland never scored again, while Joe Flacco brought his team back with a 25-45, 302 yard performance.  Their opponents have been disappointing to me so far.  While I didn’t think the Jaguars were going to make the playoffs this season, I thought they’d be better than they’ve shown, starting 0-2 again after They crossed midfield only six times and committed three turnovers. BALTIMORE WINS
  • Lions @ Packers: Both teams enter 1-1 after losing in week 2, and are looking to keep pace with the 2-0 Vikings.  The Packers lost their game in the 4th quarter, turning the ball over twice, while allowing Rodgers to be sacked 5 times. Detroit also lost their game in the 4th quarter when they were outscored 13-0 by the Titans, including a 93-yard game winning drive.  The Lions didn’t have a go to back in week 2, losing Ameer Abdullah to an injury.   So who gets back in the win column this week? I’ll take the Packers at home with a much-needed big day from Eddie Lacy. GREEN BAY WINS
  • Redskins @ Giants: Washington won the NFC East a year ago, but have opened up this season 0-2.  Struggles in the red zone and an inability to force turnovers meant a loss in a back-and-forth affair with Dallas last week. New York’s offense moved up and down the field pretty easily on Sunday, but also struggled in the redzone, and had too many turnovers in the 1st half.  But the defense and special teams stepped up and they moved to 2-0. So who takes this division matchup?  Give me the home team to get over their redzone struggles and take advantage of Eli Manning’s league leading completion percentage, which should be even better as the Giants receiving core dropped at least 5 balls in week 2. NEW YORK WINS
  • Browns @ Dolphins: For the 5th week in a row (dating back to last season), Cleveland will be starting a different QB.  Someone should tell them this isn’t baseball, there’s no starting rotation in football.  Even with the QB carousel, the Browns almost, and should have, pulled out their first win in week 2.  They were up 20-2 on the Ravens, thanks in big part to their ground attack, but fell late.  Miami isn’t in any better a position than their week 3 opponents, as they enter action at 0-2 as well.  The Dolphins were down big early to the Pats, but made a comeback after Jimmy Garoppolo went down with an injury.  Cleveland will be in this game until the end because Miami has had issues stopping the run early.  But even of Isaiah Crowell goes big on the ground, I still think they pull out the win at home. MIAMI WINS
  • Vikings @ Panthers: Minnesota will now be without their starting QB and running back for the rest of the season after Adrian Peterson went down in their game on Sunday night. The Vikings defense looked stong against Aaron Rogers in week 2. As for Carolina, they rebounded offensively in week 2, but they still struggled a bit on defense, allowing the Niners to score 27.  They’ll be without their running back Jonathan Stewart, but were picked up by Fozzy Whittaker on the ground.  Despite the 27 points allowed, I like the Panthers chances of stopping Sam Bradford and the new Vikings weapon and league receiving yards leader Stefon Diggs. CAROLINA WINS
  • Broncos @ Bengals: Andy Dalton has gotten off to a nice start this season, leading the league with 732 passing yards, so here’s a good test for the Broncos league leading defense.  CJ Anderson is having a good start to the season, and we’ve seen the Bengals give up the most rushing yards per game to start the season, so he should be able to help eat a lot of clock for Denver. DENVER WINS
  • Cardinals @ Bills: Arizona rebounded from a tough week 1 loss by handily beating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  The Cardinals led the league in total offense, while the Bills dropped to 0-2 despite putting up 31 points of their own in week 2. Buffalo has let their offensive coordinator go, so they really need this game.  Too bad I don’t think they’ll get it.  Look for a big game from running back Daniel Johnson. ARIZONA WINS
  • Raiders @ Titans: Oakland has not been able to stop anyone through two weeks, something I wasn’t expecting, allowing 70 points so far.  Tennessee has actually done a very nice job on defense.  Both teams are 1-1 heading into this game, but I still like the Raiders better.  The Titans offense hasn’t shown the big play ability the Raiders have, so Oakland should be able to hold them down better than they did with New Orleans and Atlanta. OAKLAND WINS

Sunday 4/425pm Games

  • Rams @ Buccaneers: LA’s defense showed up in week 2, Tampa’s did not.  The difference between these two teams is the offense.  While the Bucs went from scoring 4 TDs to 1, I feel more confident about their offense than the Rams, who have scored just 9 points in two games.  The best chance the Rams have is if their defense can do what it did a week ago, and good game out of Todd Gurley. That being said, I’ll take the home team in this one. TAMPA BAY WINS
  • 49ers @ Seahawks: This is a big (albeit early) NFC West battle between two 1-1 teams.  San Francisco followed up a surprise week 1 win with a defensive breakdown against Carolina.  Seattle had one of their worst offensive games in this recent stretch of Superbowl quality teams, scoring just a field goal against the L.A. Rams. I can’t see the Seahawks being held down again, especially by the Niners.  Russell Wilson should be able to dominate in this one. SEATTLE WINS
  • Steelers @ Eagles:  I never thought this would be a game where both teams have a chance to move to 3-0, but here we are.  DeAngelo Williams has been huge for Pittsbrgh in the abscense of Le’Veon Bell, who is out one more week due to suspension. Philadelphia has gotten about as good as you can ever hope to from a rookie quarterback in Carson Wentz, who hasn’t turned the ball over yet. It should be a good game, but I will go with the experience in this one. PITTSBURGH WINS
  • Jets @ Chiefs: Two teams I picked to make the playoffs in the AFC face off in Kansas City this weekend.  New York picked up their first win last week, thanks to the offense.  Off-season acquisition Matt Forte finished with 100 yards rushing, and three rushing touchdowns. Eric Decker and Brandon Marshall both finished with 100 receiving yards as well.  The Jets defense wasn’t as impressive as it was week 1.  The Chiefs hope that’s the case again this week, as they couldn’t get much of anything started against Houston. A lot went right for New York last week, and I can’t see them doing quite that well against Kansas City’s defense as they did against Buffalo.  If this were a home game for the Jets I might choose differently, but it’s a home game for the Chiefs, so I’ll go with them this week.  KANSAS CITY WINS
  • Chargers @ Colts: San Diego is 2-0, Indianapolis is 0-2.  I really thought that the Colts would be able to do better than they have on defense, but they haven’t. San Diego has looked very good on offense to start this season, Indy has been very up and down. INDIANAPOLIS WINS

Sunday Night Football

  • Bears @ Cowboys: Chicago is 0-2 despite holding early leads in both week 1 and week 2.  And now they’ll be without starting quarterback Jay Cutler due to a thumb injury.   Their best hope to beat the Cowboys is to continue limiting the passing game, as the Bears rank 4th in the NFL allowing 224 yards a game.   As for Dallas, they picked up their first win thanks to another clean day from Dak Prescott and a big night on the ground. The Boys were already a better team than the Bears before the Cutler injury, so give me Dallas at home to move to 2-1. DALLAS WINS

Monday Night Football

  • Falcons @ Saints: Atlanta picked up their first win against an impressive Raiders team in week 2, while New Orleans dropped to 0-2 after a game winning field goal by the Giants.  Atlanta hasn’t had any problems scoring this season, but their defense has struggled at times.  New Orleans’ defense was much better in week 2, forcing 3 turnovers, but it wasn’t enough.  I picked the Saints to make the playoffs, so this is a huge game for them.  If they want to get their first win, they have to figure out how to run the ball.  The Falcons tend to be very inconsistent, so give me New Orleans at home in a shootout. NEW ORLEANS WINS

A Long Off-Season Ahead in the Bronx

The champion has been crowned.  The awards handed out.  Now it’s all about the off-season and making all 30 teams better.

As for the Yankees, after a season of injuries, poor pitching performances, key player retirements and a weak farm system exposed, changes need to be made in a lot of areas.

The Yankees biggest questions?

  1. Can they afford to keep Robinson Cano?  Reports have surfaced that the second baseman is looking for a record-breaking 10-year, $305 million deal.  Whether it’s true or not remains to be seen, but you have to think the Yankees, and every other team in baseball will stay away from a deal like that.  It’s not even about the money necessarily, but the length.  Cano will turn 31 next season, and long-term deals like that can turn bad quick.  Alex Rodriguez, Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton are all prime examples of big contracts given to players already in their prime, and not really working out long-term, or at all.  So while the bombers are probably the only team that can afford Cano, will the gold-glover stay.  With no viable options in the minors to play second, fans are hoping they haven’t seen the last of number 24. [UPDATE – Reports say Cano is leaning towards re-signing with the only team he’s every known, but isn’t rushing.  He will take the money first. Seattle looks to be a major player now that New York and Cano seem to be far apart and no longer talking.]
  2. Who will be the manager come spring training?  Joe Girardi is a free-agent, and while GM Brian Cashman insists the team wants him back, there are things that could pull Girardi away from New York, and even coaching all together.  The new head coaching vacancy in Chicago might be the biggest pull.  A Chicago native, it could be a good place for the man who’s led the Yankees since 2008 to make a fresh start.  He loves working with young teams, and it would allow him to go back home.  Or Girardi could go back to working as a broadcast analyst, something he did for the YesNetwork the year between managing the Marlins and starting with New York.  [UPDATE – Girardi Signed a 4-year contract to keep him in pinstripes  until 2017.  The deal is worth $16-million plus bonuses.]
  3. Will Hiroki Kuroda retire, go back to Japan, or consider a third year in the Bronx?  Their savior the first 4 months of the season, Kuroda heads into 2014 the same way he did 2013.  With a choice to make.  After 6 years in the Majors, does he go back to Japan to finish his career, or go back home a retired player.  He’s done nothing but win and stay healthy for the bombers in his two years here, and would have many more wins if not for a lack of run support here and during his time in LA.  With only CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova (and hopefully our first Michael Pineda sighting) there aren’t many guarantees in the Yankees rotation next year. [UPDATE – Didn’t accept the Yankees qualifying off worth $14.1 million for a year.  But the Yankees have reportedly offered him a new deal, and say they didn’t except a decision from Kuroda until December.]
  4. Will Derek Jeter be good to go in 2014?  That remains to be seen. I think we can all agree the captain was rushed back too often this past year.  He played in just 17 games this season.  Jeter turns 40 midway through next season, so there were already questions of how long he’ll last at short let alone in his career.  He’s the lone member of the Yankees 1996-2000 dynasty, with two of the Core Four members hanging it up this year.  [UPDATE – The Yankees have given their captain, a new one-year, $12 million contract.  It’s a deal worth $2.5 million more than the player option Jeter could have picked  up.]
  5. What to do about the catching situation?  There hasn’t been a real solution since Jorge Posada retired after the 2011 season.  For years all you heard was the name Jesus Montero as the answer behind home-plate.  But he went to Seattle in the Pineda deal, and spent a majority of the season in the minors for the Mariners.  Then Francisco Cervelli was supposed to be the answer, but he’s been very injury prone.  So that meant backup Chris Stewart was made the starter this year, with Austin Romine tabbed to be his backup.  Romine finally showed signs of coming around offensively towards the end of the year, before he suffered a concussion.  The question is do the Yankees hope Romine can develop more for them, or do they make a move for the Braves Brian McCann, or maybe wait til the Orioles Matt Weiters becomes available.  Maybe a run at the Rangers veteran AJ Pierzynski? [UPDATE – Brian McCann it is.  The 29-year-old is leaving Atlanta and after passing his physical, is ready to don the pinstripes. A 5-year, $85 million deal that could reach 6 and $100 million if he hits certain numbers in those 5 seasons.] 

These are just some of the questions/problems that can be solved in the off-season.  Others include whether to bring back Curtis Granderson, what to do about Phil Hughes (give him another shot in the pen now that David Robertson most likely moves from the set-up role to the closer role) and what happens at 3rd base with Alex Rodriguez appealing his 211 Biogensis suspension.

The biggest problem the Yankees have can’t really be solved in one off-season.  Injuries exposed their weak farm system.  Guys they’ve drafted during this 19-year run of success haven’t panned out.  Or trades gone wrong.  There needs to be a foundation for this organization to build on.  The Yankees felt too safe with lifers like Mariano Rivera, Posada and Jeter, whose longevity meant they could “wait” to build at the position.  Well, the time to have guys like Mike Trout, Weiters and Clayton Kershaw waiting in the wings is now, and the Yankees don’t have game changers like that.  It all starts this coming draft, where the Yankees have the 18th pick, their best position in a long time.

So while these questions may not all be answered for months, don’t completely despair Yankees fans.  This team managed with 85 games and stay in the playoff conversation until the final week of the season despite a bevy of problems.  Mark Teixeira will be back, Eduardo Nunez finished the season hitting the way the Yankees always thought he could, and began playing 3rd base like a pro.  Ivan Nova was a revelation in the 2nd half, pitching like the guy who took the team by storm winning 16 games in 2011.  You have to think CC Sabathia will figure out what was off mechanically and fix it this off-season.

So that’s it for me for.  Now I want to hear from you.  Answer the poll question and tell me what you think the 1st thing the Yankees need to take care of is.

Yankees 2013 Recap: The Year Everyone Played 3rd Base

975517_10151705290480555_1720384794_nWell, it’s late November, and the Yankees watched as their bitter rivals won their 3rd Championship in the last 10 years.  It was just the 2nd season New York wasn’t a playoff participant in last past 19 years.  So not a bad run.

It was a strange year for the Yankees, and the biggest story was the injury bug.  Every position had some player go down in 2013.  Let’s start with the names that appeared on the disabled list and go from there.

  • Curtis Granderson – (2x) Hand broken by a HBP in his first at-bat of spring training.  Then, 8 games after returning in May, another HBP broke his pinkie.  His pop was only in the lineup 61 times.
  • Derek Jeter – (4x) Started season on DL with re-fracture in left ankle.  1 game after returning, he hit shelf again with a strained calf.  A quad and finally more trouble with the ankle ended his season in September. The captain played in just 17 games.
  • Alex Rodriguez – (1x) That pesky hip kept the Yankees 3rd baseman out until August 5th.  He wasn’t the same guy when he came back, and his season ended with lingering soreness in his legs.
  • Mark Teixeira – (2x) A torn tendon in his right wrist kept the switch-hitting 1st baseman out of all but 15 games this year.  He made his season debut on May 31st, but would eventually have season ending surgery.
  • Kevin Youkilis – (2x) In his first year as a Yankee, Youk got off to a good start, then back issues popped up, and never went away.  Surgery ended his season. He appeared in just 28 games.
  • Francisco Cervelli – (1x) He went down in early April when he fractured his right hand thanks to a foul tip while catching.  Then just when the Yankees thought they’d get their catcher back, an MRI found a stress reaction in his throwing elbow, effectively ending his season, playing in just 17 games.
  • David Robertson – (1x) The setup man went down with shoulder soreness in early September, but finished the year pain-free.
  • Eduardo Nunez – (1x) This was the year Nunez was supposed to take the next step.  Instead he spent a lot of time on the DL.  First he went down with sore ribs in May.  Then he battled leg issues in August, though he never hit the shelf again.
  • Travis Hafner – (1x) After a blistering start, Hafner struggled in May to July.  It came out he’d been playing through shoulder pain, a strained rotator cuff, effectively ending his season.
  • Jayson Nix – (1x) Nix did a good job filling in on the left side of the infield, but his season came to an end in August thanks to a calf strain.
  • Brett Gardner – (1x) Another guy who stayed healthy for most of the year, but an oblique strain ended his year in mid-September.
  • CC Sabathia – (1x) A grade 2 hamstring injury shut him down before his final start of the season.  It takes 8 weeks to heal, so no danger of missing time next season.
  • Andy Pettitte – (1x) The lefty missed a couple starts in late May with a strained trapezius muscle.  One of the few injuries that didn’t linger for New York.
  • David Phelps – (1x) Phelps hit the shelf in July, when he suffered a right forearm strain. He then re-injured the arm while rehabbing in August.  He would return late in September.
  • Boone Logan – The lefty-specialist saw his season cut short when it was found that he had a bone spur in his pitching elbow.  Surgery to come.
  • Michael Pineda – Two years after the big trade with Seattle, Pineda has yet to suit up for New York in the majors.  He did make 20 minor league appearances on his way back from shoulder surgery.

Not to mention all the day-to-day injuries this team had.  It may have been easier to just tell you who didn’t make the DL.  The many injuries forced the Yankees to dig deep into a weak farm system, as well as look league wide for depth.  The Bombers used a total of 56 different players, a team record.  

  • 1st base – 10 players (Lyle Overbay 127 games)
  • 2nd base – 8 players (Robinson Cano 151 games)
  • 3rd base – 11 players (Jayson Nix 41 games)
  • Shortstop – 8 players (Eduardo Nunez 74 games)
  • Outfield – 13 players (Vernon Wells 72 games in LF, Brett Gardner 138 games in CF and Ichiro Suzuki 121 games in RF)
  • Designated Hitter – 16 players (Travis Hafner 66 games)
  • Catcher – 4 players (Chris Stewart 107 games)
  • Starters – 9 players (CC Sabathia & Hiroki Kuroda 32 appearances)
  • Relievers – 21 players (David Robertson 70 appearances)

You can see from the breakdown that there was a lot of overlap.  Guys like Vernon Wells, a center-fielder by trade, made multiple appearances in the infield.  Position players were called upon to pitch innings.  3rd base and short stop were basically revolving doors where a new guy was there everyday.

Adding to the injuries, were bad years from usually reliable guys, as well as role players.  The biggest offender?  Once ace CC Sabathia.  This was a guy who took the ball every fifth day, and you usually felt like a win was coming.  But the lefty finished just a game above .500 at 14-13 and with an ERA hovering around 5.  He led the league in games where he allowed at least 3 earned runs at 22.  He led the team in home runs allowed at 28.  All numbers that are not CC like.

Guys like Lyle Overbay, Travis Hafner and Vernon Wells all contributed to wins, but they were all very cold for longer stretches.  Overbay filled in great with the glove at 1st for Teixeria, and when he did hit, it was usually a clutch RBI.  He led the team with 13 go-ahead RBIs.  But after great Aprils for Hafner and Wells, there’s very little good to talk about.  Hafner of course missed most of the season, while Wells contributed with the glove, and by staying healthy, but was a let down in many big spots in the 2nd half.

And despite the turnover, and the down years, the Yankees managed to win 85 games and stay in the Wild Card hunt until game 157.  It was a 10-win drop off from their AL East crown a year ago.  They played terribly against teams in their division, as well as teams with winning records.  There are a lot of games you can go back to and say that’s why they’re not still playing.

That brings me to my best moments/biggest surprises, and worst moments of the year:

Best of 2013

  • 10.  I put this last because it’s not too surprising, but still great.  It’s the fact that at 43, Mariano Rivera came back off a torn Achilles injury to be just as good as ever.  Sure he blew a few more saves than usual, but he was healthy all year, and still saved 44 games for the bombers.  He leaves us on top.
  • 9. Jayson Nix.  He played a lot more than you thought going into the year, but he did a solid job wherever he played.  He isn’t an average hitter, but he got on base enough, and is a smart baserunner, so he was able to move him self over to the tune of 13 steals to 1 caught stealing.
  • 8. Preston Claiborne’s emergence in the bullpen.  He ended the season poorly, but he came out of the gate retiring everyone in sight.  Claiborne quickly leapfrogged guys to become a late inning option for Joe Girardi.   Look for him to compete for the setup role next season.
  • 7. Shawn Kelley.  Here’s another guy that was invited to spring training who made the team, and decided he’d just strike everyone out.  After a rough April, Kelley was dominant in June and July, and finished the year striking out way more than a better an inning.  He’s another guy who could factor heavily in the pen in 2014.
  • 6. Lyle Overbay.  He wasn’t even at Spring Training until March 26th, when the Red Sox released him.  Losing Mark Teixeira was made easier because of Overbay, who is a great defensive 1st baseman.  He also drove in a lot of meaningful runs for New York, and he did something very rare in 2013, he stayed healthy.
  • 5.  Getting off to a 30-18 start despite all the early injuries.  The Yankees were shocking some people, with contributions from guys you never thought would be on the team.  Guys like Vernon Wells, who came out swinging in his first year as a Yankee.
  • 4. Their big 9-6 come from behind win in Boston on August 18.  Otherwise known as the game Ryan Dempster threw at A-Rod on 4 straight pitches.  Already on a bit of a hot streak, you thought maybe it would propel the team towards a playoff spot.  It didn’t, but it sure added another interesting chapter to Yankees/Red Sox.
  • 3. My biggest surprise of the year was Alfonso Soriano.  No one saw his return to the Bronx coming, and he’s a huge reason why the Yankees remained in the playoff chase as long as he did.  He added energy and pop to a lineup that struggled to score runs all year.  And for a guy not known for his defense, he made some spectacular plays in left.
  • 2. Andy Pettitte’s final major league start, a complete game on September 28th in Houston.  At 41, the lefty threw his season high to walk-off in style.  It was a fitting place for his last start, since the Astros are the only other team he ever played for, and being a Texas boy, his family was in attendance.
  • 1. Mariano Rivera’s final appearance of his career. What a moment at Yankee Stadium on September 26th when Andy Pettitte and Derek Jeter came in to take the closer out in the 9th.  Tears of joy, sadness flowed from baseball’s all-time saves leader, as well as the eyes of mound that night.  A perfect sendoff for a guy who was near perfect for nearly 2 decades.

Worst of 2013

  • 10.  Being swept by the Mets.  They lost 3 of those games by a combined 4 runs, including a blown save in the final appearance at Citifield by Rivera.  The Mets finished below .500 again.
  • 9. Bad offense all year.  You can blame injuries, but if you’re a major league player, you have to be able to drive guys in scoring position home.  The Yankees found ways to get guys on in the 1st half, but often left them stranded.  This team was bad at moving guys over, and couldn’t adapt to life without the long ball.  Even when pop returned to the lineup, close games were lost because a lack of execution.
  • 8. The awful year turned in by Phil Hughes.  He finished at an abysmal 4-14.  If he even wins 3 more, this season could have been a lot different.  He had some very good starts, but those get lost in the very bad ones.  He actually got the less run support than Kuroda, but that means nothing when you’re allowing nearly 5 runs a game.  Hughes had one good season starting, but his best year came in 2009 as a reliever.  There’s very little chance we see him back in a Yankees uniform.  He’s a fly ball pitcher who needs to be in a pitcher friendly park.
  • 7. If Hughes was awful, Joba Chamberlain was abysmal.  He couldn’t pitch in close games, he couldn’t pitch in blowouts.  At least Hughes has had good times on this team.  Chamberlain came on the scene quick, and flamed out even quicker.
  • 6. The loss of Curtis Granderson on the first pitch of spring training.  One pitch meant the loss of Robinson Cano’s protection in the lineup, and a guy who hit 84 homers the previous 2 seasons combined.  Losing him a 2nd time wasn’t any better.
  • 5. Being swept in Fenway in mid-September.  They entered the series just a game back in the wildcard with 16 to go and 3 left with Tampa.  But the Sox were clearly on a different level, and outscored the Yankees 22-7.
  • 4. Being swept in Chicago by the White Sox in early August.  It was the series where ARod returned, but it didn’t matter.  The series finale was marked by another Rivera blown save.
  • 3. Biggest surprise.  Like I said early, CC Sabathia’s drop off.  In four previous seasons with the Yankees, he hadn’t lost more than 8 games, and his worst ERA came last season at 3.38.  This year it was over a run and a half worse.  They need him to bounce back next year in a big way.
  • 2. The injuries.  You go into a season knowing you’ll need more than your 25 man roster, because injuries are apart of the game.  But the number of injuries to key players, and how it seemed they’d get one back and lose another was unusual. Having to constantly release players to make room for others, or place someone on the 60-day DL is hard for any team to overcome.
  • 1. The lack of real depth to cope with the injuries.  Having to play guys out of position because your farm system is weak is unacceptable.  Years of bad drafting, poor scouting and trading away guys came back to haunt the Yankees this year.  Sometimes prolonged success hurts teams, because it lulls them into a false sense of security.  New York didn’t factor in that eventually, guys would have to take over for guys like Jeter, and A-Rod or even Jorge Posada.  This is the Yankees biggest issue heading into 2014 and beyond.

So clearly a lot to think about when it comes to the strange 2013 season.  I had fun watching the roller-coaster ride, even if it didn’t end the way the fan in me wanted it to.

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UPDATE: Joe Girardi isn’t going anywhere. He signed a new deal that will keep him the manager of the pinstripes til 2017.  Robinson Cano is still asking for $300 million-plus, so the All-Star 2nd baseman remains teamless with no one willing to give him that much money.  Alex Rodriguez still doesn’t know the fate of his appeal of the 211-game Biogenesis suspension.  This team has yet to make any splashes on the free agent market, meaning they still have a lot of holes to fill.

Season Ends on a Sweep Note

It came too soon, and it’s not the win they wanted to end their season on, but the Yankees wrapped up the 2013 campaign with a 5-1 win over Houston.

The baseball god’s didn’t want the season to end, sending this one into extras.  David Huff got the call to start the finale, and went a solid 5 innings of 1-run ball.

The bombers tied the score in the 8th on the strength of a Curtis Granderson RBI single.  And to extras the Astros and Yankees went.  Fast-forward to the 14th, when the Yanks struck.  Mark Reynolds led off with a solo homer to put New York ahead.  A few batters later Eduardo Nunez finished off a nice stretch to end the season with a 2-run double.  JR Murphy capped off the scoring with an RBI single.

David Robertson finished it off in the bottom of the 14th, giving the Yankees the season ending sweep.  Matt Daley picked up his first career win, throwing 2-shutout innings in extra innings.  A good week for Daley, as he came in after Mariano Rivera was lifted one final time on Thursday.

The Yankees end their season at 85-77, and tied for 3rd place with Baltimore in the American League East.  It’s a 10-win drop-off from last season’s AL East crown for the bombers.

Stay tuned for my full 2013 recap, as well as my post season preview and predictions.

Running Out of Gas, Running Out of Time

You’ve heard this story before, Hiroki Kuroda gives the Yankees a chance to win, but the offense and pen can’t deliver in a 6-2 loss.  The problem this time is with 9 games left, there isn’t time for New York to work things out.

Kuroda struggled early, allowing 2 on in each of the first 3 innings, giving up 2 in the 3rd.  But he stuck with it, and gave the Bombers a chance to win the game, going 6 innings of 3 run ball.  But as it has happened often the last month, the bullpen wasn’t up to the task.  Joba Chamberlain,  whether he’s brought into close games or blowouts, the righty has struggled all year.  With two on and no outs, Chamberlain surrendered a 3-run homer to Adam Lind, blowing the game open.

The Yankees offense was stagnant once again, managing to get nothing but a Curtis Granderson solo shot off Jays starter Todd Redmond. 

It was the bombers 5th loss in their last 6 after a big series win over Baltimore, which put them just a game out of wild card.  But now another tough loss to the Jays could mean the end of the line for the 2013 season.  After starting the season 12-1 against their AL East foes, the Yankees are just 2-4 in their final 6 against Toronto.  Down 3.5 in the Wildcard, you can look at those 4 losses as being the difference.  Of course there are other games to point to, a blown sweep opportunity to Baltimore last month.  A sweep to the sox in Chicago.  4 losses to the Mets in June.  Yet somehow, with 9 to go, 3.5 with 3 to go against Tampa, they’re not mathematically out.  But there are 2 other teams between the and the Rays, so it would probably mean winning out and hoping the Orioles and Indians lose a lot.

Focus shifts back to the Bronx for what could be Mariano Rivera’s final 6 home games.  The closer will be honored Sunday before their finale with the Giants.  The hope is to make the last 9 count, force their way into a Wild Card, and give their first ballot hall-of-fame closer one more shot to do what he does best, perform in October.

CC Sabathia has had a down year, but he needs to put that behind him and give New York his best start of the year tonight.  The defending champion Giants are a shadow of the team they were last season, but they’re dangerous and want to play spoiler to finish their season on a high note.  They’ve got former Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum going, and he always has the chance to put up a big performance.  

Making that’s worse is that the rays and orioles play each other this weekend, meaning any loss means dropping down further. The Yankees are the point where just winning a series isn’t good enough.  They have to look at each game as a must win.

The Bombers Flex Their Muscles Again

In a must win for both teams on Patriot Day, the Yankees flexed their muscles to take their second straight by the final of 5-4.

One team had 11 hits, the other 6.  Just by that, you’d think the first team won. Well, you’d be wrong.  Both starters gave their teams length with Andy Pettitte throwing a season high 109 pitches, going 6.1 innings of 3 run ball. But he seemingly had someone on every inning, allowing 9 hits.  This while   The O’s Scott Feldman followed up a complete game shutout with 7.2 solid innings of just 3 hit, 3 run ball.

Curtis Granderson and Alex Rodriguez both went deep, with Granderson marking his territory in Eutaw Street on an absolute bomb in the 5th.

David Robertson was back after 5 days off with a sore shoulder.  The Yankees setup man allowed two runners on, but hung up a zero in the 8th, and would pick up the win.  Lefty specialist Boone Logan remains out with a sore left arm.  The pen’s been overworked all year, so it’s no surprised they’re banged up here in mid-September.

Tied 3-3 in the 9th, Robinson Cano picked up his 100th RBI in style, with a go-ahead solo shot to lead off the inning. Granderson then hit his first triple of the season, and was driven in on an infield single by Lyle Overbay, giving them a 2-run lead.

Baltimore made things interesting, but Mariano Rivera held them off in the 9th for his 43rd save of the year.

David Huff was scheduled to start the finale of the 4-game set.  But Joe Girardi announced postgame that Phil Hughes will get the start because of his “experience level.”  Huff made just one start in place of the demoted Hughes, a poor outing against the Red Sox.

The win means another day of gaining on everyone ahead of them in the Wild Card chase, as the Indians, Rangers and Rays all lost again.  What does it mean?  Well, the Yankees have leaped over the O’s and Indians once again, and are just a 1 game back of the Rays for the second Wild Card spot, and 3 back for the top spot held by Texas.

September baseball is fun isn’t it?