The State of the Yankees (From What we See in Camp)

The Yankees have gone through two weeks of Spring Training games in the Grapefruit League. There were a lot of questions about the pitching staff and the offence that  we Yankees fans have pondered the whole off season. The great-hang over from the 2014 season was not that Jeter would not be at shortstop this year. There was no doubt in my mind that another great Yankee would come along and not replace Jeter (how could anyone replace him), but take up the baton after him. That is the nature of the sport. Of all sports.
No the real hang over is the way the Yankees couldn’t score. It was such a weak scoring season for the Yankees that the moniker Bronx Bombers was fast becoming somewhat ironic. It was the worst I had ever seen it.
The front office was busy the off season. Bringing Didi Gregorius to the Bronx to take over at shortstop was a stroke of genius because he has already proven to be an electric player. The infield is now as solid as the outfield of Ellsbury, Beltran and Gardner. We have McCann, Teixeira, Gregorius, Headley, and Drew manning the infield. That is the projected lineup for Opening Day. It is a great defensive team. So at least it seems that we have that concern covered.
The pitchers have been a problem too. Injury left its mark on the rotation. Nova, Sabathia, Tanaka, and Pineda all lost large periods of time on the DL meaning Girardi and Cashman had to do their best work as the manager and the GM to keep the team going, and given how close we got to the post season despite our starting lineup’s injury woes, you can see just how good of a job they did. Not that many will give them the credit they ought to. But they should.
The front office has gone through great lengths to get in enough good pitchers who will it is hoped be able replacements in the events of injuries to our rotation. Tanaka looked good in his start, Pineda has looked sharp and has really got some pop in his pitching. He is pitching fire I think. Sabathia is due to start this week.The noises from camp are that he is going to be in good form this season and so we will watch him eagerly to see how he will look. Nova is still out of action and will miss a lot of the season.
Capuano is injured and will miss the beginning of the season, so that gives some of the other guys a chance to get into the rotation before Nova is cleared to play in June… or is it July? Either way it is a golden chance for one of the other guys who has come into the team for this very reason. Eovaldi had a great turnout against the Phils. Certainly he looks good. But the pitching staff was not the problem. If they can keep fit we have a great lineup. If not then we have a good lineup.
It is the hitting that still looks as dodgy as we can get it. They still look as though they are unable to score. Sure it is early in the Spring and so we needn’t worry too much. But I thinks it is something that will cause our collective stomachs to whirl. Because even with Jake and Brett leading off, and Didi at the bottom of the rotation combining in the middle inning of the game to add some spice to the hitting, there has not been too much production. The only big name to actually hit a homerun was ARod. How it sticks in our throats to have to say that. But for the most part it is the kids, the prospects that are putting up the scores for us and winning the games. We can only hope that this is merely a case of the starting lineup getting their timing down and their eyes in. There is bound to be a point when they will hit. If they can hit like they ought to, like the are supposed to on paper, then it will be fun being in Yankee Stadium because that is a homerun friendly stadium and we should see something… Oh if only they start hitting.    

The Beauty of Baseball- from the point of view of an Irish fan

Howdy baseball fans, how are you all doing? I hope that you and all your loved ones are well and safe today.
Well the baseball season is getting closer now, so close that the AtBat app has updated which I am not happy about because the season hasn’t started yet. And all the games from last year are gone now. I cannot watch them. But that is besides the point really. Because that is the nature of progress, so all of last season’s archived games are out of reach now for little old me, hey ho!
All things are forward moving at a rate of knots and within the next few days the first pitches will be thrown, the bats will be swung, and the winter will move on into the spring. That is what is exciting. The steady movement of time going forward is often done to the sounds of that timeless game. The sights and sounds of which remain the same as when the game first turned pro all those years ago. You can look at the players on the field and see them as being Ty Cobb, The Babe, Gherig, Joe Di, The Mick, of course I am naming mostly Yankees there. No spurprise I am a Yankees fan.
But the thing is that baseball is such a sport that you can impose on the players today, the faces of any of the ghosts of the past. That is what the Field of Dreams was about I think, the way that when we watch or listen to a game we can easily see with our mind’s eye the players who made the game great and gave it its past. Time is not a friend to most things, baseball is time’s only friend because for the time that one is watching a game it is as if time has stood still, no not just stood still, it has gone backwards. We are back sharing the moments that made life sweet, we see the ones who shared those moments with us, but are now gone. Like the heroes of old they return, and it is not painful like it ought to be but it is sweet.
If you ask me why I love the game, that would be my answer. It is true that I do not share the memories of baseball with as many people that most of you would have done. I grew up in Ireland and now live in England. Most people I know do not get the game, do not understand how I can love it. But then again they have never sat down and watched the game with me. But as I sit and watch and enjoy, the memories from the field colour the world around me. Last season will forever be one of those memories. Just as I still get the goosebumps from watching the 2001 World Series games played in the Bronx. Or the shock of seeing Clemens throwing the splintered bat at Piazza in the 2000 Series, the first Subway Series in 40 odd years.
I still remember watching the 86 World Series on Irish TV while playing games with my sister in the living room of my family home. Because whenever I watch those games, like music does also, I am projected back to the moments when I watched those games for the first time. Baseball is and always will be the simplest, and most beautiful of time machines. I look forward to sharing it with you all this year.

Tanaka’s comeback is fraught with concerns and hope in equal measure

Tanaka was brilliant last season. He was not expected to be as good as he was by a lot of baseball media types and even fans. They all scratched their heads when the Yanks announced Tanaka as a new pitcher for the team. Just who was this guy? Was he going to be worth the money? Will he be as good as The Yankees front office seemed to think he was?
But there was no need to worry. He was brilliant really. One of the best pitchers in the league. It wasn’t until his injury that sidelined him, that he didn’t play to the standards that he had set for himself. But then as if true to form he managed to comeback and play as if nothing too serious had happened. That is the wonderful thing about Tanaka. He never seems to be phased by the way people don’t seem to expect too much from him, or even the pressure of expectation from the fans. He is it would appear immune to the expectations (low or otherwise) of others. But focused only on doing his best by his own standards. You have to admire a man like that.
His comeback will see him face the same questions as before, the same worries about if he will be able to handle the conditions he faces. This time not due to concerns over his ability, but whether his arm will hold up for the season, and whether he will have to go for the surgery that everyone seems to think is inevitable. The signs are all good. The Yanks are confident enough to the point he is projected in the number one slot of the starting rotation for the Yankees. But with the Yanks talking about a sixth man on the rotation perhaps they are thinking of trying to protect their guy by putting him on the Japanese style roatation giving him an extra day off between games.
That would be a great thing for some of the other guys too, Sabathia and Pineda also are coming back from injury ruined seasons, and with a long run of games coming up in April they will need all the help they can get to make sure they can get through the season unscathed. With Eovaldi and and Capuano are thought to be in the original rotation for the season, but they are also giving a number of other pitchers that could slot into the rotation and are building them up as starters this spring.
Friday is the first official day of baseball activity as catchers and pitchers turn up to begin Spring Training proper. After that the games will begin. What an exciting propspect for us. Seasons Greetings indeed.

Why I can’t wait for Baseball….

It is a cold day in England.Outside the rain is teaming down from cold grey skies. There is a cold wind blowing, sharp and unkind. Stirring the skeletal trees which try to bud as spring takes hold. Yesterday there was a blackbird singing on the eaves, and everywhere there is the sight of early spring flowers breaking the ground. But still on a day like this, it is hard to buy into the notion that spring is here.

But soon, not too soon it must be noted, there will be that beautiful sound of ball cracking off the bat, the shouts of men on the diamond. What a wonderful moment indeed will it be, when the first pitch of spring training will be pitched and all the talk which comes at the point in the season when no play is happening will stop.

Yes Pineda is talking up his season. If he gets to keep away from pine-tar and doesn’t get injured, makes good decisions too, then we will have a starting pitcher that will help us to the post season. If Tanaka isn’t messed up too bad after his injury, and Sabathia too. What about McCann? Will he be able to figure out the American League pitchers? Will Beltran hit out, A-Rod? So many questions, so many words to be spoken. Only when we get to see how the Spring Training works out will we see how the Yankees will shape up after what was a poor season for us.

It is these thoughts which on a cold day like this warms me. I am longing for baseball, not just because it means the cold weather is over, but because I love the game, and the fact that although we had little to cheer last year, time marches on and soon washes away the disappointments of the past leaving only hope for the future. Who could not love that about sport?

Hi-diddly-hey Neighbourinos!

There is always the urge to make a big deal about the first post, you know what I mean? You sit down at the computer or whatever device you use to do this thing, and the urge is to make some bold pronouncement that here you are and the world should give a toss to the fact that you have something to say. So in all probability nobody will read this. I don’t mind that really. I don’t care that someones may never actually read this. I am not writing this for anything other the simple pleasure of talking about one of the few things in this world outside of faith and family that gives me a sense of pleasure and joy.
What is there not to love about baseball? My wife has a load of comments about that which will give you the impression that there is a lot. And perhaps there are many others out there who feel the same way too. The events of the 1990s still leave many with a sense of being let down by the sport that they love. I can get that too.
But you know what? None of that matters. The simple joy of the crack of a wooden bat, smacking into a wooden leather-coated ball, the small of fresh cut grass, and the excellence of what a human being can do (when it is genuinely done) is something that draws me to the three greatest bat and ball sports in the world. Yes folks baseball, cricket, and hurling.

I am excited for the start of the season. Now that The Captain has retired the business at hand can be about winning again.Last season had the feeling of being a museum rather than a serious challenge for the World Series. Though at the time it was magic, I still find it hard to watch the Yankees’ 2014 season without that same pang I get when I see photos of loved ones who are dead now. There is a sort of delight in seeing the Captain again, as he takes the field and doffs his cap, and making another landmark and going higher on the all-time lists. But the whole thing felt like we were waiting for word from the hospital that a loved one was dead. Because in a way someone beloved to all Yankees fans did die. No not Jeter… he is alive an well and I once again want to wish him well and thank him for the many wonderful moments of joy that he gave us.
What died for many Yankees fans was their childhood/ youth. I was still a teenager when Jeter became a starter. Living in Ireland I had always loved baseball but it wasn’t until that point that I was able to follow it more closely than I had. So when Jeter retired it was like a part of our lives had come to an end. And as we grow older we quickly realise that life is one giant list of letting go. But we don’t like it. We don’t want to let go of anything. So when Jeter retired we lost not only a great Yankee captain of the quality of Gherig and Munson, but we also lost that little bit of our childhood too. Depressing huh?

But onwards and upwards. Sport is a constant striving after the wind, like Sysiphus the athletes must forever push the rock up the hill. One year’s champions are often the next year’s losers- just look at Boston who went from World Series winners in 2013 to scraping the barrel in 2014. All the celebrations must come to an end and the previous season matters only in the memory.
That is a good thing for A-Rod. Who had a dire season watching from the sidelines. For many Yankees here is the Anti-Jeter. He returns whereas Jeter doesn’t. Jeter loved the game to the degree that he never did anything to bring it to disrepute. A-Rod loves playing the game, but loves it for the winning and not the playing. His links to the Biogenesis scandal, and various on field and off field antics show that he is more caught up with the desire to win and gain records than he is with the pleasures of the sport, the good of the team, and the respect of the fans.
With the reports of his apologies to the MLB and Yankees being released we can only hope that all of the shenanigans are finally consigned to the memory. We can only hope that he is in good enough shape to help the team reach another crucial milestone and lift World Series number 28. That will be the only way that he will help put to bed in the minds of the fans that while we have lost Jeter and still have him. If not then we are stuck with an expensive dud, and expensive over bloated ego. It’s time señor to bring your A-Game.

There, that’s my first blog about baseball, I hope you enjoyed reading it.