By Tony Mangia
Yanks Need To Pick It Up Against Real Teams
The New York Yankees are tied for first place in the AL East and fans are still feeling uneasy. Less than three weeks ago, the Tampa Bay Rays led the Yankees by six games and looked invincible, while Boston looked ready to rebuild. Yankee fans were ready to settle for the wild card on a silver platter. The recent surge by the Yankees can be attributed to an unbelievably weak stretch of teams on the schedule and the mediocre play of the Rays. The Pinstripers had feasted on patsies like the Indians, Orioles and the hapless Astros. Don't let the 20-5 dominance against these sub .500 teams fool you. The Yankees are only 21-20 against above average ball clubs.
Even the slumping--and low-scoring-- Phillies managed to look like the NL Champions of last year with their pitching quieting the Yankee's bats in two wins this week in the Bronx. Now the streaking Mets come to Yankee Stadium. The Mets took 2 of 3 from the Yankees at Citi Field two weeks ago and have won 7 in a row on the road. Manager Jerry Manuel finally has job security and the team has a little swagger to boot. The Yankees may have overlooked the then-staggering Queens team a fortnight ago, but now have the full attention of their cross-town rivals. The Flushing nine have been beating on the same lowly teams as the Yanks, but some Mets have publicly attributed their current 18-6 tear to beating the Yankees in that last series as an inspiration.
The AL East is slowly kneading into shape. The Boston Red Sox are only two games out while the Toronto Blue Jays have started their annual migration south. It's still amazing to see Cito Gaston in the Jays dugout. How long would he have lasted anywhere else? There is still 100 games to go, but expect this division to produce the AL wild card.
Things that should concern the Yankees include the groin injury to A-Rod and the nagging sore right foot that is bothering Jorge Posada (Mr. Grand Slam) again. Both continue to play musical chairs in the DH position. Other quagmires are the inconsistency of Joba Chamberlain to get an out and the lack of a set-up man. Joba's been pulled more times than a pork sandwich and nobody else is picking up the slack. Reliever, Alfredo Aceves is still on the mend, but there is no return date.
Tonight's pitching match-up could be the key to the series. Javier Vasquez (6-5) has been throwing well in his last few outings and we all know how good he is against NL teams, but Hisanori Takahashi (5-2) has been a capable fourth man for the Mets. It's hard to believe that the marquee match-up isn't between C.C. Sabathia and Johan Santana on Sunday, instead the main event will be Phil Hughes (9-1) against Mike Pelfrey (9-1) on Saturday afternoon. Both of these pitchers are in the top three in their respective leagues.
Nice to see former-St. John's basketball star, Ron Artest, take a sip of champagne as a member of the 2010 NBA Champion Los Angeles Lakers. Artest's up and down play up until game seven had me rolling my eyes, but he made up for all those errant three-point bricks by scoring 20, hustling for 5 steals, and hitting the most important trey with 1:01 left in the clinching game. The much-maligned (usually deservedly so) enforcer from the Queensbridge Projects has come a long way and proven his heart is as big as his body. As much as I dislike the Lakers, it was worth the victory just to hear Artest thank his psychiatrist afterwards.
THEY'RE BETTER THAN LISTENING TO JOE MORGAN AND JOHN MILLER
It was only a matter of time before the World Cup's vuvuzelas made it to our shores. The other night a fan was thrown out of Yankee Stadium for smuggling in one of the annoying horns and hitting someone with it. What cracks me up is that the man said he smuggled it through the gates by hiding the three-foot instrument in his shorts. I guess none of the security guards wanted to pat down that leg.
A KO FOR BOXING?
New York State is using its fiscal problems to push for legalization of Mixed Martial Arts in New York state. Supporters say it will bring $2 million in taxes to the state and cited 44 other states who have sanctioned it. I support the sport, but hope that boxing doesn't let the popular and ever-growing MMA upstage and overshadow it.