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

New York Yankees: May in Review

IMGP3381What is this 2013?

It feels like another Yankee is placed on the disabled list every day. New additions this month included Shawn Kelley, Carlos Beltran and CC Sabathia. These are names this team can go very long without.  Kelley hit the shelf with a strained lumbar spine (back tightness).  Just when he was looking ready to come back, the tightness resurfaced to make it more than a 15-day loss.  Sabathia hasn’t looked good all year, and has been diagnosed with degenerative knees. He’ll be out until at least July because of it.  Beltran was given 2 weeks to work out discomfort from a bone spur on his elbow.  At the end of those 2 weeks, season ending surgery could be necessary.

After the injuries to key players, there is real concern with the lack of power in this offense.  Tex, Beltran and Alfonso Soriano are the only real power threats, but Soriano has been in a season long slump and of course Tex and Beltran have missed significant time.  And without the power, you need guys like Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner to get on base and make things happen. When they get on, they usually steal.  But after the final week of the month, Ellsbury’s hot April had turned into a big time slump.  A nice surprise has been the hitting of Yangervis Solarte, but even he has hit a skid, something we all saw coming for the 26-year-old rookie.  Brian McCann needs to start hitting for this team.  His adjustment time is over.  Two months are enough for the all-star catcher.  Interestingly enough, Ichiro Suzuki is hitting at the clip of how his career has gone, over .300.  This is a guy that was supposed to be a 4th outfielder, pinch runner.  But injuries have created situations for the sure-fire Hall-of-Famer and he’s doing his best to help in the field, at the plate and on the base paths.

It was a very up-and-down month for the bombers.  They showed something winning 2-0f-3 on the road against the great pitching staff of the St. Louis Cardinals.  But they were also held to less than 2 runs 8 times (1 win).  To be fair, they only lost 2 of the 9 series (3 splits).

Best Starter: Masahiro Tanaka – He takes the award again, and not by default.  The MLB rookie continues to dominate.  He dropped his first game (and it wasn’t a horrible start) and bounced back with two huge performances to move his record to a stellar 8-1 before June.  His ability to go deep on top of his great pitching has helped stopped long losing streaks, and solidified a less than perfect rotation.

Best Reliever: Dellin BetancesSo this guy has found it big time.  All he does is come in and shut people down for 1-2 innings a la Mariano Rivera in 1996.  He’s struck out a ridiculous 56 batters to just 9 walks in nearly 33 innings of work.  And he’s also electrified the Yankee Stadium crowd much like Joba Chamberlain did when he first made it with the big club.  If the 26-year-old is on the mound, you’re not leaving your seat.

Best Hitter: Mark Teixeira – Early in the month we were all thinking that the wrist was healed and Tex was primed.   The power was back.  He was playing basically everyday. But unfortunately as the month ran down, the wrist became an issue.  Inflammation meant missing a few games at the end of the month, and a trip to the surgeon.  He was told it was okay, and returned after missing 3 straight games.  But in the 6th inning of the game, Teixeira left and is now back to “square one” with the injury. (UPDATE: Teix did make his return on June 3rd against the Athletics.  He drove in 2 runs, including a go-ahead solo homer batting right-handed.  The issue has been when batting left-handed.)

Biggest Surprise: Chase Whitley.  Who? The rookie is a huge reason why the Yankees are still hanging around the top of the American League Division.  The 25-year-old righty doesn’t have a win in 4 starts, but he should.  His last two performances were worthy of the W, but the pen and offense didn’t help him, leaving him with an 0-0 record and a 2.37 ERA. (Honorable Mention: John Ryan Murphy – the young backstop made us all expand on the J.R. and he started hitting.  He doesn’t play often backing up the All-Star McCann, but when he does, boy oh boy is he hitting!  In limited action, Murphy is hitting a scorching .348.)

Record vs AL East: 11-9

Overall Record: 29-26 (2nd in the East)

It took a big month from the Toronto Blue Jays and Edwin Encarnacion (16 homers last month), and .500 record to bump the Yankees from 1st to 2nd after May, but considering all the injuries and inconsistency, you’ve gotta be happy to be over .500 for the season.

 

A Busy Two Weeks for the Yankees Capped Off by a Cano “No”

It wasn’t $300 million, but it was the best he was going to get.  All-Star 2nd Baseman Robinson Cano, saying goodbye to the pinstripes for the dollar signs of Seattle?  It’s true.
 
After years of teams home-grown talent leaving for the Big Apple, the Yankees feel the ironic sting as Cano departs for the West Coast. Seattle was willing to not only give him the money he wanted, $240 million to be exact, but also the 10-year deal the Yankees are no longer willing to give.  The total value of the contract matches the Angels Albert Pujols for the third largest in baseball history, behind only two Alex Rodriguez 10-year contracts.  And we all know how those have worked out so far, hence the hesitation by New York to give in again.  But the Mariners are all in and so they got their guy.
 
The departure didn’t sneak up on anyone, but it still surprised many that Cano would actually leave the only team he’s ever known, after saying he wanted to go down as a Yankee legend.  It was setting up to be his team, with Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte retired, and Derek Jeter at the tail end of his own storied career. Instead, he goes to Seattle where he can be the number 1 from the get go.
 
The move leaves a big hole at 2nd for New York.  Not many can field the way Cano can, and not many can hit the way he can.  But if there’s one thing Yankees fans won’t miss, evidenced by reactions to his leaving, his lack of hustle to first base.  It’s something that you hear a lot, guys shouldn’t be praised for their hustle.  But for top-flight guys like Cano, it’s noticeable, especially with players like Derek Jeter on your team, that hustle even when their ankles are seemingly made of glass.  That being said, Cano was a huge presence in the lineup, and he will be missed, and very hard to replace.
 
The 9-year veteran is a .309 lifetime hitter, consistently gets around 25-35 homers, 40 doubles a year.  He was a key part of the 2009 Championship team.  Cano was always producing, playing over 1,300 regular season games, picking up 1,649 hits, 204 home runs, 5 All-Star Game selections, 5 Silver Slugger Awards, 4 straight top 6 MVP finishes and 2 Gold Gloves. 
 
That’s a lot of production to lose from the right-side of the infield, but
the Yankees have already made strives to try to replace his numbers, starting with a 3-year, $45 million deal with Carlos Beltran. The 37-year-old outfelder had a fantastic season in 2013 to help the Cardinals get to the World Series, hitting .296 with 24 homers.  Not to mention his production in the playoffs.  Beltran may up there in age, but he  The move creates more of a log game in the outfield, after the addition of ex-Red Sox Centerfield Jacoby Ellsbury on a generous 7-year, $153 million contract.  Ellsbury brings very good baserunning and the ability to use the short porch to his advantage, along with an injury bug the bombers hope is behind him. Adding to the log jam, the Yankees already have Alfonso Soriano, Ichiro Suzuki, Vernon Wells and Brett Gardner in the outfield.  But the Ellsbury deal in addition to the Beltran deal turns the speedster Gardner into a valuable trade tip.  He’s the perfect National League guy, solid defender, late game speed with a good eye at the plate.  And don’t forget, Beltran is a better option at DH than the Yankees had pretty much all last season.  Soriano and Wells will both also see time as the designated hitter.
 
Or how about answering maybe their biggest question: who’s catching?  That was answered by signing the Braves free-agent Brian McCann for five years to the tune of $85 million.  The Yankees saw 4 different people catch last year, and none of them were very good.  Chris Stewart was shipped to Pittsburgh to join former Yankee backstop Russell Martin following this deal. Stewart is nothing more than a backup, but started most of the year following Francisco Cervelli going down early in the year.  And known for his defense, Stewart wasn’t even that good at that in 2013, with 12 passed balls.  Austin Romine showed something late with the bat, and JR Murphy was brought up late out of necessity, but neither were ready to start.  So the 29-year-old looks continue his above average output behind the plate and give the Yankees stability there. 
 
Capping off the busy week in Yankee land was the re-signing of starting Pitcher Hiroki Kuroda to a 1-year $16 million contract. Kuroda took his time in deciding to come back for a 3rd year in pinstripes, as he weighed retirement and returning to Japan seriously.  But the innings eater is back, keeping the three-headed monster of the rotation in tact (CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova).
 
So many of the Yankees biggest off-season questions have been answered, while the Cano departure leaves one in its stead.  Who plays 2nd? Kelly Johnson was brought in, and he had a pretty good offensive year last season, though he’s more known for his glove.  But all the bats added, with the return of Mark Teixeira coming, you can get away with a light hitting second baseman if the glove is there, and with Johnson it is. 
 
So overall, I like what New York has done so far.  After saying they wouldn’t open the wallet, they have big time. McCann was my favorite move, becaues after they let Russell Martin go, they didn’t have a real answer at catcher, as seen by what happened last season.  I’d like to see an arm added to the pen, preferably a lefty, and another solid arm added to the starting rotation.  You can’t rely on Michael Pineda finally being healthy, but if he is, that’s going to be huge for New York.  Kuroda staying put was big to help stabilize the rotation in case they make no other moves and fill in with Adam Warren or David Phelps. I don’t like the length or amount of money in the Ellsbury deal, but if he can find away to play 100-13o games and run the bases like he can, I’ll live with it.  Cano leaving hurts, but I agree with the Yankees for saying no deal on 10-years. Those deals don’t end well, especially when given to guys over 30, even to guys as durable as Cano has been in his career. 
And don’t think the Yankees are done. Like I said, Gardner might be up for grabs, and he can bring the Bombers a pretty solid pitcher or infielder in return.  So time will tell.  I think we can expect a few new Yankees under the tree this Christmas season.

Wild Weekend Ends on Walk-Off Wild Pitch

Things just happen when it’s Yankees vs Red Sox in September.

Down 1-0 early, Mark Reynolds tied the game with an RBI double in the 4th.  2 out rallys are always big, but they’re even bigger against a pitcher like Jon Lester as you fight for your playoff lives.

Robinson Cano would give New York the lead on a two run double in the 5th.  He now has 97 RBIs on the season.

Hiroki Kuroda has been off his game the last month, but he fought his way through 6 innings of 2 run ball and left up 3-2.  Shawn Kelley returned after a few days off with a forearm issue to throw up a scoreless 7th.  And in the 8th Joe Girardi showed just his bad the team needed this game, as well as how beat up his bullpen is. For the first time since 2006, Mariano Rivera came in tasked with getting a two inning save.  Mo last pitched Friday when he blew his sixth save of the year.  He got through the 8th, but needed 20 pitches to do so. Then in the 9th, he surrendered a game tying solo shot to the light hitting Will Middlebrooks.

So yet again the Yankees offense was tasked with picking up the overworked bullpen.  Brett Gardner was retired to start the inning. Ichiro Suzuki singled, then stole second base.  Vernon Wells flew out to right, but Suzuki was able to advance to third, which would prove key.

So with two outs and Alfonso Soriano at the plate, Boston reliever Brandon Workman threw a wild pitch, allowing Suzuki to score.  The wild finished saved the bombers from the 4-game sweep and keeps their head above water on the wildcard chase.  After a 5-1 start, New York finishes their home-stand 6-4.
Now they’ve got to contend with a 10 game road trip starting with 4 games in Baltimore.  It’s a series that will mean either leapfrogging them again, or sinking farther down the standings.  The O’s lost today, so the Yankees enter just a .5 game behind.

But don’t forget even if the bombers do well against the O’s, three games in Fenway await them next weekend.  The Yankees goal on the road trip is to at least win both series and stay within 3 of Tampa who they face the following week in the Bronx.

Yankees Drop 3rd Straight to Sox

David Huff was unable to replicate what he did in two great relief outings.  Instead he was pummeled in 3.1 innings, allowing 9 in a 13-9 loss to Boston.

It felt like a spring training game for bombers, with Huff, newcomer Jim Miller and Brett Marshall getting the call to hold down a potent Sox lineup.  But down 9 after 4, the Yankees were behind the 8 ball all day, and they just couldn’t out-slug the Sox.

Mike Napoli continues to have a big year against the Yankees, smacking two more homers.  Jonny Gomes added a dinger, and shortstop phenom Xander Bogaerts hit his first career.   Boston got the most out of their 14 hits, scoring 13.  Starter John Lackey picked up his 9th win, despite giving up 7 runs in 5.2 innings.

Another good day for the offense, but it just wasn’t enough.  Brett Gardner, Ichiro Suzuki and Robinson Cano all had multi-hit games.  Gardner and Mark Reynolds each drove in 2 runs.

And tell me if you’ve heard this before? Derek Jeter left the game with an injury?  Yes, you read that right.  For the third time this year, the captain exited a game with a leg injury.  This time it appears to be an issue with/near the area he fractured the left ankle last October,  He’s already been on the DL three times this season.

An overworked pen is starting to fall apart, and it’s not only showing in the 3 blown leads on the home stand.  Shawn Kelley is down with a forearm issue, and David Robertson could be DL bound with a sore shoulder.

These are injuries the Yankees cannot afford this late in the year, coupled with 3 big losses this weekend to Boston.

To make matters worse, Baltimore walked-off in 10, extending their lead over New York, however the two teams play a  4-game set starting Monday.

Hiroki Kuroda must find a way to get back to his first half self, though at 38 and carrying the team on his back early on, he’s looked tired and might stay that way for the remainder of 2013.

A sweep would all but ensure no postseason, even with 7 games against Tampa and Baltimore left.  These teams continue to win, and New York still has to go back to Fenway next weekend.

They’ve made it interesting, but can the offense find a way to save the lack of pitching?  The Yankees can only hope CC Sabathia and Kuroda can find something to go along with Kuroda and Pettitte, or start looking towards 2014.

4,000 Hits: Big No Matter Where You Get Them

Ichiro Suzuki Acknowledges the Bleacher Creatures on Sunday August 11th against the Tigers

Ichiro Suzuki Acknowledges the Bleacher Creatures on Sunday August 11th against the Tigers

He got it out of the way early.  In his first at-bat of last years NL Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey, Ichiro Suzuki became just the third player in professional baseball to eclipse the 4,000 hit plateau.  The other two? Hall-of-Famer Ty Cobb and Pete Rose.

The difference for Suzuki is that 1,280 of those knocks came while he was still playing in Japan, his native land.  So really Ichiro now has 2,722  at the Major League level.  But that doesn’t take away from what he’s done.  To say the 1,280 in Japan diminish the mark is absurd.  He is still approaching the magical 3,000, something only 28 other players have done here.  And those 2,722 are the most in a 13 year span in MLB history.

Suzuki has been a model of consistency ever since he brought his lithe frame to America.  He was both the MVP and Rookie of the Year in 2001, helping the Mariners eclipses the 98′ Yankees for most wins in a regular season, winning 116.  He has won 10 gold gloves (tied for an OF record), had 200+ hits in his first 10 seasons and has a lifetime batting average of .320.  From 2001-2012, he only missed 32 games.  All marks that have Hall-of-Famer written all over them. Not to mention the numbers he may have had if he had started his career here and not in Japan.

At 39 (he turns 40 in October), Suzuki is in his first full season with the Yankees and while he isn’t a .300 hitter anymore, he’s still a hit machine.  You can still see him stretching in the outfield, the dugout and everywhere in between.  Still see him hustle to beat out a ground ball, because without that hustle, he’d wouldn’t have those 500-plus infield hits.  He can still dazzle in the outfield, though most of his magic comes in right for the bombers.

So now that he’s hit the magical 4K, what’s left?  It’s simple.  You can’t play forever, though if someone could, Ichiro and his magical rubber limbs could probably make a good run at it.  In his 21 years as a professional ballplayer, Ichiro does have one championship ring, from the 1996 Japan Series.  But in 12+ years here, he’s been to just one ALCS, when the Mariners were defeated by the Yankees in 2001.

Suzuki and the Yankees of 2013 still have a shot (however small) to make it to the playoffs thanks to a hot streak here in August.  And he is signed through next season.  His window is closing, but there may still be enough room for his small frame, productive bat and above average glove to slip through to the promise land.