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Archive for May 19th, 2010

The Yankees were no match for the Rays tonight. In fact, the two teams didn’t even look like they belonged on the same field. Tampa not only embarrassed the Yankees, but seemed to relish doing so.

Brett Gardner makes diving catch, but Ben Zobrist tagged up and scored from second base on the catch (Photo: AP).

When Jason Bartlett led off the game with a home run, it was as if the Rays were announcing their presence in the Bronx with the authority of a dominant team. The Yankees went into the game hoping AJ Burnett would turn in another strong outing against Tampa, but instead he was soon pitching mop up duty. After yielding another run in the third without allowing a hit, Burnett imploded in the fourth inning, allowing the Rays to break open the game with four more runs.

At 6-0, the game was pretty much over at that point, but the Rays were relentless. Not only did they steal six bases, but Tampa also bunted late in the game and even scored a runner from second on a deep outfield fly. At times, it seemed as if the Yankees were just standing around watching.

If only momentarily, the Yankees did spring back to life in the sixth inning after Alex Rodriguez launched a majestic home run off the blue padding beneath the batter’s eye in center. The blast seemed to jolt Rays starters Wade Davis, who surrendered two more hits (albeit wrapped around a double play that required an extraordinary effort by Evan Longoria to initiate) before being lifted in favor of Lance Cormier. A walk and an error then loaded the bases for Derek Jeter, who entered the box as the tying run. With the count at 3-0, the crowd came alive for the first time since the early part of the game, but Jeter was eventually overpowered on a 3-1 fastball that was clocked at 90mph. As he has done all too often this season, Jeter rolled over on the pitch and grounded out to short stop.

Although he clearly did not pitch well, Burnett was able to save the bullpen by going 6 2/3 innings. However, Boone Logan and Mark Melancon were unable to provide relief. Each pitcher gave up two runs a piece in their brief outings, which allowed the Rays to extend their lead to 10-2.

Those extra runs would ultimately prove costly because the Yankees roused themselves one more time in the ninth inning. After the first two outs were recorded, Brett Gardner hit would seemed to be a harmless single to extend the ballgame. Mark Teixeira then followed with a walk and busted it down to second base on Arod’s ground ball up the middle. By beating the attempted fielder’s choice, Teixeira prolonged the game for hits by Robinson Cano and Ramiro Pena, but the comeback ended when Juan Miranda waived over a breaking ball in the dirt.

Over the past 10 games, the Yankees have been able to tread water with a severely depleted roster. However, with the Rays in town, they were facing a step up in competition. All of the warts that had only slowly started to emerge were all of a sudden completely revealed. The Yankees ability to keep winning despite their injuries was admirable, but tonight’s game was a wake up call. After Marcus Thames was forced to leave the game after stepping on his own bat while running to first, the Yankees outfield consisted of Winn, Gardner and Pena. Clearly, that’s not how Brian Cashman drew things up in the off season.

The Yankees desperately need their injured players to get better soon. If no reinforcements are on the horizon, the Yankees may soon find themselves mired in a wild card morass, and catching the Rays will become only a rumor.

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The first place Rays make their first visit to Yankee Stadium and have a real opportunity to put some space between themselves and the World Champions. The Yankee team they’ll encounter, however, is a far cry from the one who took two of three in the teams’ first series down in Tampa.

Once again, the Yankee lineup includes a less than intimidating bottom of the lineup, while the bullpen is short on desireable options. In other words, the Yankees will need the good AJ to show up tonight. Otherwise, the game could get ugly fast.

Despite an offense that has struggled for most of May, the Rays continue to win ballgames behind the sterling pitching of their youthful five man staff and resurgent bullpen. The Rays come into tonight’s game with a team ERA of 2.69 (ERA+ of 159), which makes tonight’s starter Wade Davis and his 3.38 ERA one of the weaker links.

In many ways, this short two game series could go along way toward defining the first half for both teams. If the Yankees can manage to beat the Rays despite being depleted, it sends a clear message that the World Champs are not yet ready to turn over first place to the upstart Rays. However, if Tampa is able to take two games from the Yankees in the Bronx, it could set them apart in the division for the foreseeable future.

vs. Wade Davis PA BA OBP SLG HR RBI
Derek Jeter SS 6 0.500 0.500 0.500 0 1
Brett Gardner CF 3 0.667 0.667 0.667 0 0
Mark Teixeira DH 6 0.400 0.571 0.800 0 1
Alex Rodriguez 3B 6 0.500 0.500 1.000 1 3
Robinson Cano 2B 5 0.200 0.200 0.800 1 2
Francisco Cervelli C 2 0.000 1.000 0.000 0 0
Marcus Thames RF 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Juan Miranda 1B 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Randy Winn LF 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Total 28 0.416 0.464 0.792 2 7
             
vs. AJ Burnett PA BA OBP SLG HR RBI
Jason Bartlett SS 26 0.250 0.280 0.417 1 2
Carl Crawford LF 51 0.340 0.373 0.447 1 4
Ben Zobrist RF 18 0.250 0.294 0.563 1 2
Evan Longoria 3B 28 0.333 0.357 0.519 1 3
Carlos Pena 1B 37 0.103 0.297 0.207 1 4
BJ Upton CF 37 0.194 0.324 0.194 0 1
Hank Blalock DH 16 0.143 0.250 0.214 0 0
John Jaso C 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Reid Brignac 2B 5 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Total 213 0.245 0.305 0.367 5 16
Yankees vs. Rays    
Season: 2010 Season: 2009 Season: 2008 All-Time
NYY: 2-1 NYY: 11-7 NYY: 11-7 NYY: 135-70

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In addition to being the most successful team in all of American sports, the Yankees are now also the most valuable brand among sports teams worldwide. According to Forbes’ annual assessment of sports teams’ brand strength, the Yankees have surpassed English Premier League soccer team and worldwide icon Manchester United for the top spot.

The Yankee brand, which Forbes valued at $328mn, ranks ahead of international soccer powerhouses such as the aforementioned Man U ($285mn) and Real Madrid ($240mn) as well as the Dallas Cowboys ($208mn). According to the survey, the Yankees were able to surpass perennial leader Manchester United thanks to significant increases in merchandizing, sponsorships and television ratings. In addition, the U.S. dollar’s increasing strength relative to the British pound also helped catapult the Bombers past the Red Devils.

List of Most Valuable Sports Brands (based on Forbes estimates)

Rank Team League Value
1 New York Yankees MLB $328 million
2 Manchester United EPL $285 million
3 Real Madrid La Liga $240 million
4 Dallas Cowboys NFL $208 million
5 Barcelona La Liga $180 million
6 Bayern Munich German Bundesliga $178 million
7 Arsenal EPL $176 million
8 Boston Red Sox MLB $163 million
9 New York Mets MLB $158 million
10 New England Patriots NFL $156 million

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For the second game a row, the Yankees jumped out to a big lead, squandered it and then rallied off Jonathan Papelbon in the ninth. This time, however, the rally came up short and the Yankees took their turn suffering a crushing defeat.

Joba walks off mound after blowing four-run lead in the eight inning (Photo: AP).

The reason the Yankees had the lead was because C.C. Sabathia was able to persevere through a lack of early command and adverse weather conditions, while Red Sox starter Josh Beckett was not. In between kicking at the mound and scowling at Yankee batters who stepped out between pitches, Beckett served up five runs in 4 2/3 innings, albeit with the help of more shoddy infield defense.

Even Beckett’s exit from the game was eventful. After Robinson Cano’s two-run double extended the Yankee lead to 5-1, Beckett was removed with what was later called discomfort in his back. At the time, however, it sure looked like the real cause was ineffectiveness. Despite the lack of an apparent injury, Manny Delcarmen was allowed an unlimited number of warm-up pitches, which prompted Joe Girardi to play the game under protest. At the time, it looked as if the protest would be a moot point, but that was before Joba Chamberlain entered the game.

Earlier in the season, Girardi definitively named Chamberlain as his “eighth inning” guy, but the Yankees’ inconsistent righty hasn’t exactly provided a safe bridge to Mariano Rivera. Chamberlain’s biggest problem has been is inability or unwillingness to throw strikes. That tentativeness was on display to the first batter in the eighth. Despite having a 5-1 lead, Chamberlain seemed unwilling to challenge Marco Scutaro until the count reached 3-2. Scutaro wound up reaching first base on a throwing error by Arod, which only seemed to make Joba shy away even more from the strike zone. What followed next was a barrage of hits. Pedroia singled, Drew doubled and then Youkilis singled to narrow the deficit to 5-4. Then, after Youkilis moved to second base on a ground out, Girardi committed the first of his several blunders. Instead of walking the suddenly resurgent David Ortiz to pitch to the righty Adrian Beltre, Girardi seemingly instructed Chamberlain to pitch around the big lefty. Unfortunately, that’s not quite what happened. Once the count reached 3-2, Chamberlain finally picked a spot to be aggressive. The only problem was Ortiz was aggressive too, and sent a long drive that just missed going over the right centerfield wall. Luckily for the Yankees, the ball bounced right to Brett Gardner and Big Papi spent too much time admiring his blast, a confluence of events that resulted in Ortiz being thrown out at second base.

The Yankees had a chance to untie the game in the bottom of the 8th, but Daniel Bard induced a harmless fly from Mark Teixeira with two outs and runners on first and second. So, with the game knotted at 5-5, it was time to enter Sandman. After Darnell McDonald lined a one-out single off Rivera, Scutaro then lofted a harmless pop up to right field. Harmless, that is, for a normal right fielder. The Yankees, however, had Marcus Thames playing the position. Even though Nick Swisher announced himself ready to play before the game, Girardi still saw fit to leave the defensively challenged DH in the game. So, when Thames dropped the Scutaro pop, it was hard to blame him as much as the manager who left him in a situation to fail. That error would eventually come home to roost when Jeremy Hermida lined a double over the head of Randy Winn, who was playing so shallow that it seemed as if he thought the Green Monster was standing behind him. (more…)

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