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: April in Review

IMGP3377 Jacoby Ellsbury can hit, Carlos Beltran can play everywhere and the injury bug didn’t stay in 2013.

Let’s start on the injury front shall we?  They sure popped up early and often in April.  Mark Teixiera went down first with a grade 1 hamstring pull, and closer David Robertson quickly followed him onto the 15-day DL with a groin strain.  Both came back after the two weeks were up, and have looked good in a small sample size.  Then, Derek Jeter missed he final two games of the Red Sox series.  And in that final game (a win) against Boston, Francisco Cerveilli ended up on the 60-Day DL with a grade 2 hamstring strain, Brian Roberts went down with a back injury, and not to mention a scare with April revelation Yangervis Solarte. But the biggest loss? It came after a blowout loss against the Tampa Bay Rays.  Starter Ivan Nova, who many thought would have a break out season after a strong finish to 2013, is heading for season-ending Tommy John surgery.  The young righty has a torn UCL injury, which already claimed all of 2014 for another one of New York’s up-and-coming stars, the Mets Matt Harvey.  The month ends with Brett Gardner nursing a sore foot, and Ellsbury has a day-to-day hand issue.

Considering they started the season with 13-straight games (their first two series were in domes), coupled with the injuries, the Bombers should be very happy with their record.  It’s only April, and they’ve already changed their fortunes in the AL East.  They only won 6 games against Boston last year, yet they’ve already taken down the defending World Champs 6 times in one month of baseball here in 2014!  They lead the division early, only lost 2 series the entire month, and are over .500 in the East. Sabathia continues to search for a way to be successful with his new stuff, but one thing about the big guy you can’t take for granted. He gives you length every start. They might not be the sharpest innings late, but he finds a way to not kill your bullpen.

IMGP3378

Best Starter: Masahiro Tanaka – That 24-0 last season in Japan does NOT look like a fluke. Sure it’s early, and the league needs time to catch up, but man does Tanaka look like the real deal.  Tanaka’s 3-0 to start his MLB career and has a ridiculous 46 strikeouts to just 6 walks in 35.2 innings. His first start got off to a shaky start, giving up a lead-off homer to Toronto’s Melky Cabrera, but he sure settled down.  3-runs in 7 innings.  Then he did it again, going a complete 8 in a shut-out win over the Orioles, striking out 10 along the way in his Yankee Stadium debut. And what about his dominance over 8.1 against the Sox in Fenway! He’s been nothing short of dominant. His one bug-a-boo?  The long ball.  He’s so in the zone, that balls tend to fly out easily.  The good thing is they’ve been solo shots for the most part.  (Honorable Mention: Michael Pineda – I could’ve easily made him the best with his 2-1 record, minuscule 1.00 ERA coming off two years of arm issues.  If Tanaka has been number 1, Pineda has been 1a for the Yankees pitching staff. Too bad this all came to a screaming halt with a 10-game suspension due to pine tar, followed by a lat strain that will sideline him for another 3-4 weeks.)

Best Reliever: Shawn Kelly – Outside a bad outing in a non-save situation, Kelly did a wonderful job sliding into the closer role while Robertson was on the disabled list.  Adam Warren has the other save recorded this season, and without the legendary Mariano Rivera closing games, and a big injury to D-Rob, who would’ve thought they’d make it through April without any blown saves? (Honorable Mention: Adam Warren – He’s adjusted to the short reliever role very well.)

Best Hitter: Jacoby Ellsbury – For any Yankees fans that thought liking his former enemy would be hard, you were very wrong. He’s come in and not only torn the ball off the cover, he’s run the bases better than anyone this team has seen since a young Alfonso Soriano was stealing 40 a year. And no, I’m not omitting Brett Gardner here, who has blinding speed, but doesn’t always take advantage of it on the base paths. (Honorable Mention: Carlos Beltran – Power, power, power.  He leads the team in HRs, RBIs, OPS and Slugging %.  He’s been another great addition to the Yankees outfield and lineup.)

Biggest Surprise: Yangervis Solarte – He spent the first 7 years of his career in the minors. He wasn’t even supposed to make the team! Yet Solarte hit his way onto the team out of spring training, hitting Eduardo Nunez off the team completely.  He can and has played every position on the diamond and has done it well.  And talk about a doubles-machine!  He’s also tied with Beltran for the team lead in RBIs with 13.

Record vs AL East: 10-7

Overall Record: 15-11 (1st in the East)

So that was April.  Coming up in May, the Yankees are on the road a lot, including a 3-game series against the Leagues top team, the Milwaukee Brewers.  The Bombers also play their cross-town rivals, as well as the Nation League representatives in the World Series last year, the St. Louis Cardinals.

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.

Nova, Bats Come Up Big

SuperNova indeed on a Saturday afternoon in the Bronx. Ivan Nova went the distance for his 2nd career complete game shutout to help keep New York in the conversation; a 6-0 win over the San Francisco Giants.

A 3-run 3rd was all Nova needed. Eduardo Nunez added a 2-run shot in the 4th, and the bombers scoring was capped off by Alfobso Soriano’s 17th homer since rejoining the team.

The good news: they have once again leapfrogged the Orioles. The bad: Baltimore lost to Tampa, so they’re still 3.5 behind the Rays with 3 here starting Tuesday. But they’re doing what they need to do, which is win.  The Rangers won so they maintained a 2.5 lead over the yankees.  Cleveland won as well, maintaining their spot and 3 game lead.  The yankees have to hope they can do no worse than tie the Indians with no gamea left against them, as well as hope Texas continues to fall.

Focus shifts a bit to honoring Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte tomorrow. Attendees to the pre-game ceremony include Joe Torre, Bernie Williams and Jorge Posada, who caught a majority of Mo’s saves and Petttitte’s wins.

Pettitte goes tomorrow for the bombers they look to sweep.

Record Slam Lifts Yankees

Bad legs and all, Alex Rodriguez still hit his record breaking 24th grand slam over the right field wall to break a 1-1 tie in the 7th en route to a 5-1 win over the San Francisco Giants,

The slam broke a tie with Lou Gehrig for the most in major league history. This record may have a metaphorical asterisk given Rodriguez’s steroid use and pending suspension, but as it stands, he stands alone atop the grand slam list. ARod had been slumping ever since straining his hammy then hurting his calf, but he still managed to come up big late for the bombers.

CC Sabathia looked like his old self, going 7-plus innings of 1-run baseball. The win lifts his record back over .500 to 14-13. David Robertson came on with one on and no outs and got out of the inning 1-2-3. Mariano Rivera came in to close it out, even though it wasn’t a save situation. The Sandman was just as effective as ever, retiring the side in just 8 pitches.

It was a must win game for many reasons, as there are now just 8 regular season games left. The Rays and Orioles are playing each other, a win guarantees New York of gaining on one of them, and maintaining a gap with the other.

Add to that the Indians are playing the leagues worst team in the Astros, and the Rangers and Royals are also playing each other. Cleveland was able to take advantage, moving into a wild cars spot thanks to losses by card holder Texas. Baltimore also lost. Tampa moved into the top wild card spot. So the yankees are 3 back of Cleveland, who they won the season series against. They’re also just a .5 game back of the o’s and royals. But the Yankees can only focus on themselves, and they did what they needed to do. Take care of your own business and hope for help, a lot of help.

Game 2 of the series pits Ivan Nova agains Ryan Vogelsong for the defending champs.

***
Andy Pettitte announced before the game that he will be retiring for a second time when the season comes to an end. He’s had a good season, but said it’s one that has left him “mentally and physically” exhausted, so he’s hanging them up for good. The oldest starter in the league will make his final home start Sunday, on Mariano Rivera Day. Seems only right since the two have combined for the most win-saves in MLB history. And his final start, if the yankees can’t find a way into the postseason, fittingly enough will come against the only other team he’s ever played for, the Houston Astros. 255 career wins and a major league record 19 postseason wins for Pettitte to go with 5 World Series wins and 8 appearances.

Lost Weekend in Boston Means Big Trouble

Every time the Yankees have had some momentum this year, there are the Red Sox to spoil the fun to the tune of a 9-2 victory to complete the sweep.

A run in the top of the 1st got the Yankees feeling good quick.  That is until Mike Napoli struck again.  With one on, and one run already in, Napoli hit his 7th homer of the year against New York.  That was the highlight for Napoli, who would set a Red Sox franchise record for strikeouts in a season at 178 then get ejected in the game.  But the damage was done. 

Clay Buchholz was his usual self, holding the bombers to just 2 hits and 1 run in 6 innings, though he did walk 4 batters.  Ivan Nova lasted just 4 innings, surrendering 5 runs on 4 walks and 6 hits.   Buchholz improved to 11-0, Nova dropped to 8-5.

Alex Rodriguez drove in the first run, but left in the fifth with a tight right calf.  Not surprising as the 3rd baseman has been playing with a tight left hammy.  Favoring one leg for another often results in an injury to the other, see Jeter all year.  56 players have been used by New York this year, and every new one to put on the pinstripes breaks the team record.  

It was a must win game in many ways for the Yankees.  You want to avoid the sweep no matter what, but especially to your AL East rivals.  Down 3 games in the Wild Card, a win would’ve gained ground on both Tampa and Texas.  But with the loss they lose even more ground to Baltimore and Cleveland, who are sandwiched between themselves, the Rays and the Rangers.   The Yankees finish just 6-13 against the AL leading Red Sox.

The highlight of the day came pre-game when the Red Sox honored Mariano Rivera with a number of gifts highlighted by a poem regaling the Yankees closer with praise and love.  It was a nice moment watching the Fenway faithful giving Mo a standing O.  Somethings are bigger than rivalry, and baseball history is one of them.  And Rivera has his own special place in Yankees, Red Sox and Baseball history.  

So now a much needed off day awaits New York before 3 games in Toronto, who should be a welcome sight for the Yankees. They’ve fell just 3 times to the Jays this season.