Happy Birthday Derek Jeter!!

Today, my favorite non-family member turns 38 years old.

With 3,181 hits, Jeter has the third most hits ever by his 38th birthday (only Hank Aaron and Ty Cobb had more).

And he did it the right way.  No chemically induced seasons needed.

I’ve only been in one fight in my life, but call Derek Jeter over-rated and I will punch you in the face.

Also, I’m naming my first born daughter Jeter (future wife, this is non-negotiable).

Happy 38th DEREK!!!

Take Me Out to the Ball Game

Went to my first Yankee Game of the season tonight (they lost 5-0), here are the three keys to enjoying a game at the New Yankee Stadium.

Cheesesteak (with onions and whiz), peanuts, and a large beer (Budweiser).  I know a hot dog is more sport and city appropriate (and I do love hot dogs), but the cheesesteak holds a special place in my heart.  Sit back and watch the game while sipping on a cold beer, snacking on peanuts and devouring a cheesesteak.  It all comes together so perfectly. I can only say, few things in life are this simple, yet this enjoyable.

Pineda for Montero: Revisted

So, Michael Pineda is out for the rest of the season and will probably miss the beginning of next season.  For those of you who don’t follow baseball, Michael Pineda pitches for the New York Yankees, well in theory at least (he’s yet to actually pitch an inning as a Yankee).  This off season the Yankees made a bold move trading their top prospect for Pineda.  When I heard the deal, I instantly hated it.  When I took some time to think about it, I still hated it.  Here’s a text conversation I had with a friend following the trade.

        

Ghosts of iPhones Past (Part I)

While rummaging through my dresser drawers today I found my old iPhone, circa October 2009 – October 2011.  In two years, I took just under 130 photos (128 to be exact), not many considering the digital age we live in.  Since I rarely post pictures on Facebook, I haven’t seen many of these images since I put my iPhone 3 out to pasture.  So, here are some of my favorite images/memories via my iPhone3.

The Knicks came to Fordham (that’s Nate Robinson below, my favorite Knick from the dark ages, pre-Amare) and held an open practice.  One of the few Saturdays I woke up before noon. 

We dressed my pal and former roommate, Gucker, as Professor Chaos (from South Park) for Halloween.  He thought he would win the Best Costume at the bar.  He didn’t.

My brother and I go to game six of the 2009 World Series FOR FREE (we snuck in through one of the stadium’s side doors).

And the Yankees WON!!!!

And then there was the ticker tape parade.

Spring break came.  A few friends and I packed up the car, drove twenty-four hours to Miami (got a $700 speeding ticket) and hit the clubs (That’s Mansion below).

Graduated from Fordham University.

Road trip to Philly for some authentic Cheese steaks (from Jim’s).  

Big Apple BBQ 2010 in Madison Square Park.  I love BBQ.

Free Hanson and Drake concert (yes, you read that right, Hanson, like Mmmbop and Drake, together) at South Street Seaport.  Unfortunately, mini riot ensued.  Concert canceled.   

My boy Tom Ni kicks some ass.

Got to see The Dead Weather (one of Jack Whites many projects) in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park.  

My sis comes up big, finds two tickets, below face value, day of Jay-Z/Eminem concert at Yankee Stadium.  Best Concert I’ve ever seen.

  TO BE CONTINUED…

Mariano Rivera Vs. Jay-Z

A while back I compared Yankees’ closer, Mariano Rivera, the greatest closer of all-time, to Brooklyn born MC, Jay-Z, the greatest living rapper of all time.  Mariano holds the record for most saves as Jay holds the record for most number one albums by a solo artist.  Each in there 40s now (they were born five days apart,) are still at the top of their game, a game that usually favors the young.  Let’s look at how exactly they mirror each other

The Formative Years

Mariano Rivera’s 1996 Season Vs. Jay-Z’s Reasonable Doubt

Mariano’s 1996: IP 107.2 SV 5 K 130 BB 34 ERA 2.09

Reasonable Doubt: The Source 5 Mics XXL XXL Billboard Chart 23

Mo and Jay each “arrived” in 1996.  Jay-Z released one of his greatest albums while Mariano had one of his best seasons, finishing third in the Cy Young race as a set up man (that’s unheard of).  But, that’s not where the similarities end, Mo finished with his lowest single season save total, while Jay’s Reasonable Doubt is his lowest charted album.

The Rise

Mariano’s 1999 Season Vs. Jay’s Vol. 2…Hard Knock Life

Mariano’s 1999: IP 69 SV 45 K 52 BB 18  ERA 1.83

Vol. 2…Hard Knock Life:  Billboard Chart #1 Sales 5.3 mill Grammy Noms 3 (1 win)

By this point each had been on the rise, but they experienced their true breakout here.  Jay releases his first number one album, goes quintuple platinum and wins a Grammy for Best Rap Album.  Mo leads the league in saves, wins his first AL Rolaids Relief Award (given to the best Relief Pitcher of the year), and is rewarded the World Series MVP.

The Apex

Mariano’s 2005 Vs. Jay’s The Blueprint

Mariano’ 2005: IP 78 SV 43 K 80 BB 18 ERA 1.38

The Blueprint: The Source 5 Mics XXL XXL Billboard Chart #1 Grammy Noms 3  

Each had already established themselves as premier players in their respective roles, but this pushes them over the top.  Mo and Jay each put in arguably the best effort of their career.  Mo wins another AL Rolaids’s Relief Award, finishes second in the Cy Young voting and posts an inhuman ERA+ (an advanced metric statistic) of 308.  The Blueprint ranks among many music publications as one the best albums of the year and eventually lands on The Rolling Stones list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.

Washed Up??

Mariano’s 2007 Vs. Jay’s Kingdom Come   

Mariano’s 2007: IP 71.1 SV 30 K 74 BB 12 ERA 3.15

Kingdom Come: Grammy Noms 1  Billboard Chart #1 Sales 1.5 mill

Not bad numbers for a couple run of the mill guys, but these aren’t supposed to be run of the mill guys.  Mo posts the highest ERA of his career and the least amount of saves since he became the closer.  Jay receives a lot of sour reviews, while selling the lowest amount of units since his In My Lifetime Vol. 1, ten years ago.  A lot of talk starts to build over whether or not these guys are washed up.

Questions??

Mariano’s 2008 Vs. Jay’s The Blueprint 3

Mariano’s 2008: IP 70 SV 39 K 77 BB 6 ERA 1.40

The Blueprint 3: Grammy Noms 10 (6 wins) Billboard Chart #1 Sales 1.9 mill

After questions arise over whether or not these guys still have it, they answer back with a resounding, YES.  Mo hangs the second lowest ERA of his career, finishes in the top 5 for the Cy Young and even more amazingly walks only six guys all season.  Jay brings home six Grammy Awards and records his first number one single with “Empire State of Mind” (replacing Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” as the city’s unofficial anthem).

Still Going…

Mariano’s 2011 Vs. Jay’s Watch The Throne

Mariano’s 2001: IP 61.1 SV 44 K 60 BB 8 ERA 1.91

Watch The Throne: Grammy Noms 3 (1 win) Billboard Chart #1

Even into their 40s these too keep chugging away.  Last season Mo was terrific, as usual, with an ERA under two, 40+ slaves and a top 10 finish in the Cy Young race.  Jay teamed up with Kanye to produce one of the biggest records of the year, critically and commercially.

What more can I say, “There’s never been a ni**a this good for this long…”   

New York Yankees 2012 Preview

The New york Yankees start their march for a 28th championship title tomorrow at 3pm eastern time.  While I do not follow the league as keenly as I once did (I can’t even name all thirty closers anymore) I still possess a pretty good beat on my hometown team.  Here is my player by player analysis of the 2012 New York Yankees.

Catcher: Russell Martin
A bit overrated in my eyes.  Supposedly a good locker room guy and tough as an overcooked rib eye, but he doesn’t produce like he did in his early years (he’s an under .250 hitter over the last three years).  Behind the plate he is pretty solid all though not spectacular.

First Base: Mark Teixeira
It’s hard to gripe about a guy who consistently hits 30+ home runs, drives in 100+ runs and plays a gold glove first base, but I’m about to.  In recent years he has fell in love with the short porch in right field and has become pull crazy.  He no longer drives the ball the opposite way, he looks for a pitch in and tries to yank it over the right field fence.  This can be seen in his dramatic decrease in batting average, .256 and .248 over the last two years respectively, for a guy who hits .281 for his career.  This tendency has also manifested itself in the playoffs where he is hitting a putrid .136 over the last two years.  In the playoffs you face a lot of good pitching and you need complete hitters, ones who do not have holes in their swings, in order to thrive.

Second Base: Robinson Cano
Talking about complete hitters, here is one of the top three pure hitter in the game (next to Miguel Cabrera and Albert Pujols).  Cano does a great job of taking what the pitcher gives him and spraying the ball all over the field.  He has hit 25+ homers, 40+ doubles and carries a .314 average over the last three years.  Plus he plays a superb second base, coupling a powerful arm with an incredible smoothness in the field.  Cano is arguably the Yankees most valuable player.

Third Base: Alex Rodriguez
Let me make it clear, I have not liked A-Rod since 2001 when he dissed Derek Jeter in an Esquire article.  Now in 2012 their are a trove of articles outlining the demise of A-Rod, which I believe is a bit dramatic.  I know in each of the last four years he has found his name on the disabled list, but this guy may be the greatest right handed hitter since Roger Hornsby.  Add to that, he went to Germany this off season to receive the same dubious Rocky IV- Ivan Drago type leg surgery that Kobe Bryant received before the start of the NBA season and now look at Kobe, he leads the league in minutes and points per game.

Shortstop: Derek Jeter
O Captain! My Captain.  As a Yankee fan I am contractually obligated to never criticize Derek Jeter.  So he’ll be great.

Left Field: Brett Gardner
When he first came up to the big leagues I thought he was no more than a fourth outfield, but he proved me wrong displaying two legit MLB skills, base stealing and fielding.  Both of these skills are routed in Gardner’s insane speed.  He doesn’t quite read pitchers well when stealing bases and his great defensive value comes from the great range he can cover thanks to his wheels.  But he is limited in the power department and if he hits .260 again  he may be looking for a new job.

Center Field: Curtis Granderson
Granderson posted career numbers last year with 41 homers, 136 runs and 119 rbis.  He’ll probably regress a bit this year but he should still be one of the premier center fielders in the AL.  Though like Teixeira he tries to pull everything  and can not claim to be a truly complete hitter, I mean the guy struck out nearly 170 times last year.

Right Field: Nick Swisher
This guys is a full count machine.  I have never seen a player who went up to the plate trying to draw a walk.  That being said, Swisher is about as average a player as you can get.  He doesn’t hit for a great average but draws a bunch of walks, he has some power but strikes out a ton.  Swisher is the ultimate neutral player.

Designated Hitter: Raul Ibanez/Eric Chavez/Andruw Jones/Eduardo Nunez
I don’t know exactly who, if anyone, will take the reins on this one, but it seems to me like it will end up being a hodge-podge platoon of match ups/who’s hot.  The Yankee brass seem to really like Nunez and his potential.  While the other three, well past their prime, have a combined six all star appearances among them and look to try an recapture some of their youth.

Backup Catcher: Chris Stewart
I know literally nothing about this guy, the Yankees just signed him yesterday.

Ace: CC Sabathia
I love CC, he is my favorite Yankees pitcher since Orlando Hernandez.  The guy is an absolute bulldog on the mound, you can pencil him in for 230+ innings and 18+ wins.  He gives you a chance to win every time he takes the rubber.  The Yankees MVP comes down to him and Cano, period.

Starter: Hiroki Kuroda
An overlooked signing by Brian Cashman.  The guy eats innings, has pretty good control and should be effective although I do anticipate a bump in his era, moving from the NL west to the AL east.

Starter: Phil Hughes
I attended Hughes’ Major League debut ready to embark on what was suppose to be a great career.  What followed? A huge disappointment.  He’s shown some flashes but thanks to injuries and overwhelming ineffectiveness I find it incredibly hard to expect anything positive coming from this guy in the immediate future.

Starter: Ivan Nova
He does not boast a strong K/9 or K:BB ratio and I don’t see him repeating his impressive rookie season, but maybe I’m wrong, if he keeps the ball on the ground maybe he can do what Chien-Ming Wang did for a few years.

Starter: Freddy Garcia
This guy’s been around and I can’t imagine him topping 150 innings this year.

Starter (DL): Michael Pineda
I hated this deal the moment I heard it.  The Yankees traded Jesus Montero (a top five prospect) for a guy with one year big league experience who posted a +5.00 era in the second half of last season.  Are you kidding me?  Did you watch Montero at the plate in the last month of  the season?  This guy can rake in 60 at bats (I know it’s a small sample size) he put up .328/406/590 and showed power to the opposite field at age 21!!  This guy can be the next Miguel Cabrera, for Christ sake.  I know a lot of people are saying Pineda has just as much upside, but you fail to realize he has globs more downside.  Look at young pitchers, young pitchers better than him, Mark Prior, Kerry Wood, Joba Chamberlain, Dontrelle Willis, Brandon Webb,  injuries to young pitchers are so common and detrimental, its basically a crap shoot.

Starter (Wildcard): Andy Pettite
Who knows?

Relievers: Clay Rapada/David Phelps
End of the bullpen guys they’ll bounce back and forth from AAA to the bigs all season.

Relievers: Boone Logan/Corey Wade
Pretty effective last season, but the shelf life on relievers is so hard to predict.

7th Inning Man: Rafael Soriano
Tremendously overpaid and struggled last year until he found a groove toward the end of the season.  He’ll make about $11 mill this year.  $11 mill for a seventh inning man, a luxury only the New York Yankees can afford.

Set-up Man: David Robertson
This guy is good,  real good.  He struck out 100 guys in under 70 innings last year while posting an era of 1.08.  He issues a tad too many walks, but if he can refine his control he’d be superhuman.  The heir apparent to Mariano Rivera.

Closer: Mariano Rivera
The most amazing man I have ever watched in sports.  The man is the Jay-Z of closers, he has been around the game since 1995 and while others pop up and try to claim his throne (Eric Gagne, Billy Wagner, Brad Lidge, Joakim Soria)  he always outlasts them and ends up on top.  Unequivocally the greatest closer of all time.

Predictions:
I see the Yankees winning the wildcard but in a stacked AL east with an old base and questionable starting pitching behind CC I don’t see them winning the division.  When it comes to the playoffs I always say that you’re only as good as your number two starter.  If Pineda proves me wrong or Pettite can revive his career they could be in good shape, but I doubt either of those will happen.  Yanks lose in the ALDS.