Tuesday, May 11, 2010
YANKS AT THIRTY
By Tony Mangia
THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT
So how's that trade-off with the Detroit Tigers working out for the Yankees? I wasn't missing Johnny Damon until this series started last night. The former 'Idiot' showed some of that Yankee-killer flair he had in Boston by hitting a home run in his first game against his old team. It's not too bad. Compare it to running into an ex with a downgrade as a companion.
The Yanks are in fine shape though, after winning nine of ten series they've played, and are still running are neck and neck with Tampa Bay for the AL East lead. Last year at this time , they were 6 games out. The new members of the Yankees--- Curtis Granderson(the replacement for Damon from Detroit), Nick Johnson, and Randy Winn---have been mediocre, at best, but still have knocked in 20 runs between them. The real story is the long-awaited emergence of Yankee trade-bait: Phil Hughes and Brett Gardner. GM Brian Cashman hung on to both, even when fans were clamoring for them to be packed off. Francisco Cervelli and Marcus Thames have also filled in admirably as role players.
Gardner is batting .344, Cervelli is hovering around .400, and Thames is up to .390 after a slow start. Gardner is one of the league's leaders in stolen bases and is an defensive improvement over Damon in the outfield. Gardner's speed is something the Yankees haven't had since Rickey Henderson and before his "bad hammy" days. Hughes has been sensational as the fifth starter and will probably be moved up unless Javier Vasquez turns it around---quickly! Fill-in players, like this gang, sure eased the slow starts of Mark Texiera and A-Rod while covering up nagging injuries to Jorge Posada and Granderson. The starters---combined and minus Vasquez---are 16-2, while ,amazingly, the bullpen has consistently pulled its own weight.
Tex Heating Up
When all is said and done, the Yankee infield could hit 160 home runs. Jeter and a part-time Posada are good for 25 each. A blossoming Cano could smack at least 30 while a slow-starting A-Rod should hit 40. Tex and his April hitting drought have parted ways and once he really heats up, 40 jacks is a low-ball total. This is one of the most complete infields, offensively and defensively, in the modern era. The Big Red Machine and the 80's Phillies teams are a couple of barometers, but this pinstripe five are all potential Hall of Famers too.
Think a Red Sox fan designed the Sports Illustrated cover two weeks ago? The bubble wrap mailed to Derek Jeter should be wrapped around injury-prone Nick Johnson, STAT! I think that means fast and put him in storage bin. Speaking of the Sox---and I know its early---they look deader than Josh Beckett's arm. The only time his fastball shows life, is when its aimed at a Yankee's head. And what about David Ortiz? Big Papi sure hasn't been the same size since he came out last year about his "careless use of supplements and vitamins?" He's smaller than Oprah.
EYE ON THE PRIZE
There aren't many players I would pay to see before they retire---Jeter, Tim Duncan, Peyton Manning. I wouldn't hesitate to fork over some beer money to watch Ichiro just shag flies and take BP. They are all clutch and make plays that make your jaw drop. Now, even without being a big NBA fan, Steve Nash becomes a must see. I've always liked his play making and running style but his performance, while beating the Spurs in game four last week, was a classic. LeBron James can dominate and can put on a show; but doesn't seem to make his teammates any better. The other day, after getting inadvertently elbowed by Duncan, Nash took six stitches to the eye and returned to the game with his right eye swollen shut. He looked like Rocky after his fight with Apollo Creed. Its not the first time he became a bleeder. Last year, Tony Parker of the Spurs popped Nash and busted up his nose during a playoff game. He was an even bloodier sight that time.
This time, Nash strutted out of the locker room and, without missing a beat, drained a three-point shot from six feet beyond the arc! Nash's slashing lay-ups and "half-look" passes that night helped the Suns sweep the playoff-hardened Spurs. Even Duncan paid his respects to Nash after the game. Well, that's kind of expected from the classy Duncan. Dallas owner, Mark Cuban must be kicking himself for letting Nash go. He'll really regret it when Dirk Nowitzki opts out of his current contract and goes to Phoenix to be with his running buddy.
Does this thing between A-Rod and Cameron Diaz mean we'll have to watch her blow kisses at him from the $2500 seats all season? Kate Hudson was bad enough.
Please baseball, stop with the shaving cream pies after a walk-off victory. It's like this Betty White over-exposure. It's old, tired, white and in-your-face.
Manny Pacquiao (who I will call Pacman from now on because its too hard to spell his name) seems to be getting over his 'True Blood' and 'Twilight' fears. His camp says he will take a blood test 14 days before the fight now.
When did Ken Griffey Jr. turn into Grandpa Simpson? Falling asleep during a game, by his locker, when he was supposed to be pinch-hitting. Money well spent, Mariners. Sadly, this could become another Willie Mays farewell tour.