Times Running Out for Jeter/Yankees

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The New York Yankees are running out of time if they plan to make the 2104 postseason. As it currently stands, they are 7 games back of the Orioles for the AL East crown and 2.5 games out for the second Wild-Card spot. If the Yankees miss the playoffs again this year, it will be the first time in two decades that New York has missed the postseason in consecutive years. It’s a troubling thought for Yankee fans and it wouldn’t be a good look for the owners (Hank & Hal), especially since the team hasn’t done much since they took over following the passing of their father.

As the Yankee’s season begins to dwindle down so does the career of Derek Jeter. Jeter has not had the most impressive season statistically (.264, 3 HR, 34 RBI’s) and it’s clear from watching him, that his best days are behind him. However, it would be nice to see him play in the postseason one more time. After all, it’s the postseason (158 games: .308 BA, 20 HR, 61 RBI) where Jeter has shined the brightest and it wouldn’t seem right for him to leave the game forever, without one more shot at another World Series title.

Realistically speaking, the Yankees have a legitimate shot at making the postseason but they won’t make any noise if they get there. They have a completely depleted pitching staff and an offense that is as inconsistent as any in the majors. There’s a slim chance that they will catch Baltimore (even with the loss of Manny Machado) but the second Wild-Card spot is still within reach. If the Yanks can buckle down and play some consistent ball for the next four weeks, they could find themselves back in the postseason. If they don’t make it, it will be a disappointing end to not only a promising year but an unceremonious end of an icon and baseball legend.

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Re2pect

(Photo Credit CBSNews.com)

Re2pect. For many Yankee fans and all around baseball enthusiasts, nothing else needs to be said.  Number 2 for the New York Yankees, has done more for baseball than even his harshest critics can refute.
 
Derek Sanderson Jeter is staring at the finish line as the final stretch of his brilliant baseball career is underway.  It’s astonishing to think how fast time flies especially when you’ve grown up watching Jeter as I have.  I still remember watching him win his first of five championships sitting in my dusty, damp basement overcome with excitement and joy.  Being eight years old and watching your first “idol” win the ultimate prize is what sports is all about; and from that moment on I have been nothing but a fan.

The number speak for themselves. Jeter has a .311 career batting average, 3,411 hits, 14 time all-star, and is a World Series MVP. In his 18 year career with the Yankees he has the most hits (3,411), at-bats (10,164), stolen bases (348) and he is third in runs (1,876) trailing Gehrig and Ruth. As impressive as his stats are, they don’t tell the whole story. Watching him hustle out an infield groundout or witnessing him dive headfirst into the stands to make a crucial out against the Red Sox, shows the commitment and drive to excellence that he has had throughout his career. He should be admired not so much because of his success, but because he always put forth his best effort, even if seemed as if a game was out of reach.
 
Jeter is more than just a baseball player, he’s an icon; a man that women want to be with and who men wish they could be.  In the age of social media and rabid reporters, Jeter has stayed out of the tabloids and kept as low a profile as any superstar can. It’s refreshing to see, especially when so many athletes are more interested in campaigning for their “brand” than they are on winning (RGIII anyone). While he’s been seen on commercials for Visa, MasterCard, Nike and Gatorade, it’s never seemed as if that’s what he was striving for. He’s never used the media as a tool to make a name for himself (i.e. RIchard Sherman); rather he has done the exact opposite and let his play do the talking.

There is no doubt that there will be plenty of read this, roll their eyes, and think that I am nothing but a Yankee homer and Jeter lover. While that might be true to an extent, please take the time and really think about this athlete and what he’s done not only for the Yankees, but for baseball in general. In a time where steroid rumors run rampant throughout the league, Jeter’s name has never been whispered. The face of the league, arguably the biggest star in his sport, and no one has ever considered him dirty. That speaks volumes for the type of man he is and the respect that his contemporaries have for him. For those who still don’t agree, I challenge you to give me another athlete who has done more for their sport, stayed with the same team their entire career, and is respected and revered throughout sports in the way that Jeter is. Go ahead and try, It’ll be more difficult that you think.

An Irrelevant Rivalry

The New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox have the most storied rivalry in sports. For many years it was the most compelling and riveting rivalry without a close second. Since the late 00’s the Sox vs. Yanks popularity in the sports landscape has really taken a nose dive. The best rivalry in sports has become irrelevant. The past two seasons, the Red Sox have more of a rivalry with another team in the same division (Tampa Bay) than they do with the Yankees. How could such an intense and exciting rivalry become a boring dud in such a short period of time?

The first explanation is that the teams aren’t very good. Now, I know that the Sox won the World Series last year, but that was lightning in a bottle. They’ve come back with the same roster that won it all last year (minus Elsberry) and they are one of the worst teams in the league. The Yankees after winning it all back in 2009 really haven’t done much since. They missed the playoffs entirely last year and are looking poised to do the same again this season. For a long stretch in the late 90’s and into the new millennium, every year these two battled for AL East bragging rights; that seems like an eternity from right now. Neither team has a roster that feels like its championship worthy, which negatively impacts the state of this rivalry. It’s tough to keep the fans interested when you’re not putting a great team out on the field. In that same vain, it’s not much of a rivalry when you’re not playing for anything except to try and stay out of last place.

The second explanation is, there are no more rivalries amongst the players. In the late 90’s and early 00’s, there was the “who’s better” argument between Derek Jeter and Nomar Garciaparra; they didn’t have a personal rivalry, but it was a fun debate for the fans. Then there was the Pedro Martinez vs. everyone on the Yankee roster battle which lasted many years. Martinez was arguably the best pitcher in baseball for a stretch during this time and owned the Yankees. He was someone Yankee fans hated because of his outspoken and arrogant approach to the game; the very same reason all Red Sox fans loved him. And last but not least, there was the A-Rod factor. He started things off by flirting with the Red Sox before the ’04 season to quickly veer away and sign with the Yankees for an absurd amount of money. Things escalated quickly when he was getting beaned at least once every series between the two teams. Then they hit a boiling point when he and (then) catcher Jason Varitek fought each other after Rodriquez was plunked yet again (that was also the same fight where Pedro threw the Yankees bench coach Don Zimmer to the ground after Zimmer when charging after him). There are many who believe that this benches clearing brawl was the turning point in the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry because at the end of the ’04 season, the Red Sox won their first World Series Championship since 1918; and beat the Yankees in the ALCS after being down 3-0 in the process. They didn’t just break the curse of the bambino, they shattered it.

The third and final explanation is that baseball is dying out in popularity. The once most popular sport in the country is now behind the NFL and NBA in popularity. In a society that has become fast paced and impatient, baseball is arguably the slowest sport in the U.S. With sports like Football, Basketball, and Hockey with constant action, baseball tends to be slow and methodic. With game times averaging three hours, many fans have become disinterested in spending that much time in front of the television for maybe twenty minutes of excitement. With its dwindling popularity, baseball has become more of a regional sport than anything. Most Red Sox /Yankee fans are found on the east coast and (most) aren’t tuning into ESPN for Sunday Night Baseball featuring the Milwaukee Brewers vs. Cincinnati Reds. Whereas during the NFL season, those same fans will turn on NBC and watch Sunday Night Football if it’s the San Francisco 49ers vs. New Orleans Saints. It’s just the way the tide has turned in the sports landscape.

The Sox vs. Yanks rivalry has not only fizzled out but has become irrelevant in recent years; which is too bad for the fans and baseball in general. When the two most popular teams aren’t winning, it can make it tough to draw interest into dying sport. Hopefully in the coming seasons these two once great teams can get back to their winning ways and rejuvenate the best rivalry in sports.

2014 Orioles a repeat of 2012?

In 2012 the Orioles made the playoffs for the first time since 1997, ending a 15 year period of pure misery for Orioles fans and reviving baseball in Baltimore.

Since the addition of Buck Showalter as manager in 2011, it is obvious that the Orioles have been moving in the right direction, but can they build on what they have already accomplished?

In 2012 the Orioles defeated the Texas Rangers in a one game wild card playoff and lost to the Yankees in the ALDS in the fifth and final game. They probably will not be playing the Yankees this time around, but who is to say they won’t lose in the ALDS again?

In 2012 the Orioles were too reliant on the longball and struggled hitting with runners in scoring position. As a team they hit .187 in the 2012 ALDS with 3 home runs and 10 RBIs. All of them were the worst of any team in the 2012 Divisional series.

In 2012 the Orioles hit the second most home runs in the league and ranked 12th in RBIs; this year they are first in home runs but 10th in RBIs. Home runs are great, but that much of a differential between RBIs and home runs concerns me.

This year the Orioles are the sixth best ranked team in leaving runners in scoring position on base, leaving only 3.33 runners in scoring position per game. For comparison, the Oakland Athletics are ranked 9th with 3.40 runners left in scoring position. While that is encouraging, the Orioles were second in that category in 2012 and still struggled to score runs in October.

The 2012 playoff experience was a good one for players like Chris Davis, Adam Jones, Nick Markakis, Manny Machado and many others; now that they have been there I expect them to learn from 2012.

The AL East is wide open for them this year and is their’s to lose, but this year’s American Leagues teams are much better than in 2012, especially the Athletics and Tigers (who the Orioles would most likely play in a first round playoff series). Sure C.C. Sabathia pitched great in the 2012 ALDS but imagine facing John Lester, Sonny Gray and  Scott Kazmir instead, Or David Price, Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander (granted Verlander is not the same as he was two years ago).

Regardless of who they play, the Orioles need to hit with RISP and can not leave runners on in scoring position. It will define their success in the playoffs once again.

From July 30th to Aug. 3 the Orioles only scored 10 runs. The following two games they scored 16 runs, and followed that up by scoring three runs in their last two games. With this offense, when it rains it pours.

It is important the Orioles offense finishes the season and heads into the playoffs scoring runs at a more consistent pace.

Rodriguez Centerpiece of Biogenesis Scandal

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It’s been a drama free summer for Major League Baseball, which has been a welcome change from recent years. Much of that has to do with the year-long ban of Alex Rodriguez for his excessive use of performance enhancing drugs. Since spring training, not much has been said about Rodriguez and he has wisely stayed away from the media/public eye. That all changed Sunday night when disgraced clinic owner Tony Bosch was interviewed on “60 Minutes” and gave further details of Rodriguez’s involvement in the Biogenesis scandal.

In the “60 Minutes” interview, Bosch stated that “Rodriguez became his client in 2010. Bosch said he’s supplied pro athletes with banned drugs almost 10 years — a corrupt sideline to his anti-aging clinic based in Florida.” He continued stating that “to tailor a doping program for Rodriguez, he needed to know how long various drugs stayed in Rodriguez’s body. He said doses and timing were critical so Rodriguez would not test positive after a game.” (CBSnews.com)

Bosch has already lied to the media before so it’s important to keep that in mind every time he opens his mouth. With that said, Rodriquez has done the same, so if you’re looking for a sympathetic figure, you’re going to be out of luck. Rodriquez has brought all of this on himself and it’s truly sad. He was considered one of the greatest players of all time and many believed that he would overtake Barry Bonds to become the “true” Home-Run king. His fall from grace is one for the record books (excuse the pun), and the ignorance he’s displayed through all of it has become nothing more than a bad joke. He alienated himself first from his team (New York Yankees) when he was first caught back in 2009, and then from baseball when he was caught last year.

Through it all, Rodriguez has put forth a smug and arrogant persona that has not done him any favors with the media or fans. He already was one of the least liked players in baseball before all of this transpired, his arrogance has just fueled the hate that so many have towards him. To make matters worse, he’s constantly looking to anyone he can to try and deflect blame, rather than taking ownership for his mistakes. At this point, he might as well accept his fate as a disgraced athlete that will never gain the public trust or admiration again. It’s too bad because he was an amazingly gifted and transcendent baseball player. I was one of the millions hoping that he would cleanse baseball from the steroid-era; I never imagined that he would leave the biggest and darkest stain of all.