September 28, 2011: The reason I love baseball

    Thursday, September 29, 2011, 7:42 PM [General]

    It was just past midnight.  Two games, two seasons were on the line.  Everyone in the stands, everyone at home on the edge of their seats, holding their breath.  One swing could change everything.  It took two swings to turn September 28, 2011 one of the single greatest nights in baseball history.

    The American League wild card winner was coming down to this one night.  Either the Boston Red Sox or Tampa Bay Rays were walking away this night with postseason birth.

    Let's backtrack a little bit...

    The Boston Red Sox started the 2011 season as one of the top favorites to win the 2011 World Series.  They were projected to be too great for the old and creaking New York Yankees who missed out on Cliff Lee and mistakenly resigned a "finished" Derek Jeter to a bad contract. According to majority of the baseball world, the Red Sox were unbeatable and everyone should forfeit.

    Fast forward...

    September arrives, the most important month of the season as divisions are closing in.  The Red Sox shouldn't have a problem, right? Wrong!

    The Red Sox performed one of the biggest collapses in the history of the game going 20-7 in the final month of the regular season.  Starting 9 games ahead in the wild card race, the Red Sox let the Rays catch all the way up to this very night.  Both teams came into this final night of the regular season tied up for the American League wild card.  The Rays played their hearts out in September and the Red Sox were slowly falling apart.

    The night started off looking in the favor of the Red Sox.  Up 3-2 over the last place Baltimore Orioles and Jon Lester on the mound while the Rays trailed the Yankees 7-0.  The Red Sox players went into a rain delay without too much of a worry on their shoulders.  Yankees are winning 7-0, they should hold onto that lead, right? Nope.

    When the Red Sox and Orioles resumed their game after the delay, the Rays caught up to the Yankees and were now trailing 7-6.  Not long after Dan Johnson hit his second home run of the season off Corey Wade right over the right field wall.  The game was now tied.

    The Red Sox and Orioles game didn't seem like a walk in the park anymore.  Still up by one run they needed to hold the lead to at least try for a game 163 if need be.

    Bottom of the 9th, same score, the Red Sox bring in their closer Jonathan Papelbon to try and save the season for at least another day.  What seemed like in the blink of an eye, Robert Andino drives in the game winning run for the Orioles in a bloop single to left where Carl Crawford could not make the shoestring catch. The Orioles are in a frenzy celebrating while the Red Sox sulk off the field in a stunned silence.  A lot of the baseball world couldn't believe what had just happened.

    Just a few minutes later, also what seemed like in the blink of an eye, Evan Longoria takes Scott Proctor deep to left field for the game winning home run.  The game winning home run that officially named the Tampa Bay Rays the American League wild card winners and eliminated the Boston Red Sox from any playoff chances.

    You don't have to be a fan of any of these teams that were involved in this magical night.  A true baseball fan can really taste the magic behind it all.  It puts everyone on the edge of their seat knowing at any second two destinies will be changed.  It's one of the biggest reasons why I love the game of baseball.  September 28, 2011 was the perfect display and I will never forget it for the rest of my life.

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    Injuries to Stars Lead to Knee-jerk Reactions

    Thursday, September 22, 2011, 6:22 PM [General]

    My cousin Phil pointed out something very interesting to me today.

    In the beginning of baseball season there was an outcry for a new rule in home plate collisions after the season ending injury to San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey.  "Baseball needs to change the rules!" "Baseball needs to protect their catchers!"

    My cousin and I were two of a lot of others that spoke against these claims.  Honestly, did people really forget this game?  Home plate collisions are part of it.  They used to happen constantly.  There's even a countdown on MLB Network for the most notable collisions.

    One of the things I said during this outcry was that if this wasn't Buster Posey, if this was any other catcher that wasn't a fan favorite rookie-of-the-year, no one...I mean NO ONE...would have said anything.

    Fast forward...

    This September the Yankees played a game against the Baltimore Orioles where back-up catcher Francisco Cervelli was involved in a home plate collision.  He suffered his fourth concussion and is out for the remainder of the season.

    Now you're wondering what the public outcry for "protecting catchers" said about this.  Oh wait...they said NOTHING.

    Why didn't anyone put up an outcry over this?  It's plain and simple:  outside of the Bronx, Cervelli is a nobody.  He isn't a World Series champion rookie-of-the-year.  He isn't a player who was predicted to be a future superstar.  He's just the back-up catcher for the New York Yankees.  That's it.

    To all of the Buster Olney's out there:  stop making a big stink over nothing.  It's not worth it.  Maybe if you actually paid any attention to the game of baseball, you would know that this is a thing that happens in the game once in a while.  Not to mention that the hit to Posey was a perfectly clean hit.  This is a perfect example of fans, media, etc jumping the gun before really thinking about what just happened.

    I quote my cousin Phil as he said to me this morning:  "Funny how injuries to superstars lead to knee-jerk reactions."

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    Not time to lose faith in Swisher

    Thursday, June 2, 2011, 11:20 AM [General]

    Nick Swisher rounds third after belting a three run home run
    to left field against Oakland (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images North America)

    I was thrown questions left and right these first two months of the 2011 season about Nick Swisher.  Will he ever bounce back? Will the Yankees trade for Carlos Beltran? What will happen to right field next year when (that's right, when) the Yankees decline Swisher's option?

    I can't blame everyone for asking these questions. Swisher's offense was horrifying the first two months of the season.  He managed to stay over the mendoza line, but his batting averaged kept sinking and sinking.  I, however, was not ready to throw away what he produced for the Yankees in 2009 and his career year in 2010. I stood by Swisher and believed he would bounce back.

    Here are some things I have noticed about Swisher's swing this season.  In 2009 he was very erratic at the plate swinging the bat behind his head before the pitch was even thrown.  As Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long puts it, Swisher wasn't "calm at the plate".  In 2010 Swisher's swing changed dramatically.  Instead of swinging the bat behind his head, Swisher let it rest on his shoulder.  It showed more patience at the plate and instead of drawing mostly walks that season Swisher was able to produce more hits and had the best season of his career.

    The first two months of the 2011 season I noticed a slight difference. Swisher was still letting the bat rest on his shoulder, but I noticed he was going into his swing motion too soon.  Last year as the pitch would leave the opposer's hand Swisher took the bat off his shoulder.  This season he was taking the bat off his shoulder as the pitcher was winding up.  It's causing him to swing too soon.  Swisher's still showing a great eye and patience to draw walks, but his patience in hitting has been suffering.

    Swisher's defense has also been struggling, just not as much as his offense has.  He's still a pretty solid right fielder, but he has made more mistakes out there than usual.  To be fair though, most of the Yankees defense has been struggling.  Take note:  He has ZERO errors, a 1.000 Fld%, and four assists so far in 2011.

    The Yankees are currently on a west coast road trip and have played the Seattle Mariners and Oakland A's for three games a piece.  Swisher has gone 6-for-20 (.300) with six walks giving him an OBP of .462 and is slugging .650.  One might say, "But that's only six games," but considering his struggles this season, that's impressive.

    Is this a hot streak that will help him bounce back? Maybe.  Is it just a hot streak and will struggle again soon? It could happen.  However, this doesn't take away what Swisher is capable of doing.  It's a struggle.  Everyone has them.  He doesn't have to have the exact same numbers as 2009 and 2010.  Now that he's shown this small streak starting and at least has them in places throughout the season it will be an advantage to the Yankees lineup.

    This is no time to thrown in the towel and count Swisher out for the rest of the season.  He's showing hope that he will bounce back and that he's not done yet.  Don't lose faith.

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    How to help Nick Swisher

    Tuesday, April 26, 2011, 8:34 PM [General]

    So far in the first month of the 2011 season there are some hot batters and some cold batters.  One of the more noticeable cold batters so far is Nick Swisher.

    Some have said to move him down further in the lineup where he is already batting sixth.  My solution:  bat him second.

    Swisher had the best year of his career last year with the New York Yankees.  Overall he had a .288 batting average with 163 hits, 29 home runs, 89 RBI's, and 58 walks.  Batting second alone he had a .272 batting average, 92 hits, 17 home runs, 47 RBI's, and 38 walks.

    So far in 2011 overall he has a .227 batting average with 15 hits, 8 RBI's, and 12 walks.  This season he's batting second in five games and has a .389 batting average with 7 hits, 2 RBI's, and 2 walks.

    The Yankees have one walk-off win this season and it was off the bat of Swisher--a sac fly against the Baltimore Orioles.  Swisher was batting second that game.

    Whatever it is Swisher likes about batting second it seems to work.  Just looking at the numbers from this season alone shows that he is more comfortable in the two hole.

    This is my opinion.  Ever since he changed his approach at the plate in 2010 and Joe Girardi had him batting second he's been a completely different hitter.  All the games he's been cold this month have been with him batting 5th or 6th.  His more heated games this year are him batting second.

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    The man, the myth, the legend: Mariano Rivera

    Monday, April 18, 2011, 8:28 PM [General]


    God is in the bullpen.

    Baseball has a living legend and he's right in the back end of the Yankees bullpen.

    What is it about Mariano Rivera that has baseball players, managers, coaches, and fans in such awe?  He is the greatest closer in the history of the sport and he does it all with one pitch:  the cut-fastball.

    The pitch comes in like a fastball and at the last second it cuts in fooling batters left and right.  I've never seen anyone make a pitch like that other than Rivera.

    I watched an interview with Atlanta Braves third baseman Chipper Jones who talked about Rivera.  Jones said that every time he's gone to face Rivera he would try to change his approach because the last one didn't work.  He ended saying he was running out of options.

    His cutter has such a movement on it that it fools batters almost every time.  Most of the time the hitter will foul the ball off or pop it up.  Even more often the hitter will strike out.

    Ask any Yankees fan what it's like when Rivera comes into the game at home.  The bottom of the eight ends in a save situation and everyone looks up at the jumbo tron.  There he is who Yankees fans call "God" finishing his warm up tosses.  When he's ready he he carries his glove and walks slowly out of the bullpen and the speakers begin to play Metallica's "Enter Sandman" to honor the Sandman himself.  All Yankees fans stand on their feet and the stadium erupts with cheers.  If you look around some fans even take the minute to bow toward the man walking slowly out of the bullpen and beginning his trot toward the mound.  Fans will stay on their feet until the game is over feeling confident Rivera will end it.

    Rivera works in such away that when he enters the game you feel satisfied knowing that it's pretty much over.  Don't get me wrong Rivera is of course human and there have been times where batters have gotten the best of him, but if a team has to face him 50 times, Rivera is going to defeat them in at least 48 outings.

    What also makes Rivera amazing is that he will be turning 42 in May and he is still pitching like he did in his outing in the ALDS at the age of 25.  The only way you can tell that Rivera has been aging is the light gray hairs in his face, and even that at times isn't very noticeable.

    I will always have the same unforgettable memory of Rivera.  It was game 7 of the 2003 ALCS vs. the Red Sox.  Watching that game in my living room was intense and I could feel the excitement of the fans from my home.  When Aaron Boone hit the walk off homer and the cameras showed him trotting around the bases you see a Yankee player kneeling on the pitchers mound.  It was Rivera.

    The moment was so powerful that every time I watch the replay of Rivera crying in joy and hugging the rubber it puts me to tears.  It showed the exhaustion of emotions that went on in that game and the passion Rivera and his teammates have for winning important games.  It will be a moment I will want to tell my future children if they shall exist one day.

    What I can also tell them is what it was even like to watch him pitch.  He truly is one of a kind.  No one will ever come close to what Rivera was capable of doing on the field.

     It will be a fun next two seasons for Yankees fans with Rivera in the bullpen as he is just 36 saves away from breaking the all-time saves record.  At the pace he is going he could break it either the very end of this season or early next.

    Long live Mariano Rivera.  May he get his first major league hit in a National League park sometime in the next two seasons.  May he always pitch like he's 25-years old.  May he always be in the hearts of the New York Yankees.

    I can't wait to tell my future children and their children what it was like to watch Mariano Rivera pitch.  There will never been another player like him.

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