Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Derek Jeter Misses an Opportunity

In a career where his pinstripes have fit perfectly, his hat always on straight and his words have never gotten him in trouble, Yankee Derek Jeter committed an error last night. It wasn’t a misplayed ground ball. It wasn’t a bad throw to first or a failed turn for a double play. No, The Captain’s error came away from the field, because he was away from the field. The Yankee Shortstop decided to skip the 82nd All-Star game in Phoenix due to exhaustion. Jeter was flat out tired after his quest to become the first Yankee to reach three-thousand hits, which he obtained on Saturday in grand fashion hitting a home run for number three-triple-zero.

Jeter also had other reasons to rest beside the mental toll he spent on his quest for Yankee immortality. He just returned to the Bronx Bomber line-up after a stint on the disabled list due to an injured calf muscle. At 37, injuries are nothing to take lightly especially in the calf area. With the Yankees one game out of first place in the American League East, the last thing they need is for Jeter to miss significant time in the season’s second half with a flare up from the previous injury. You can bet New York Manager Joe Girardi and his Yankee teammates had no problem with their leader not catching a plane to Sky Harbor Airport.

But the task of reaching three-thousand hits just four days ago, and the risk of injury which can happen anywhere at anytime are exactly two reasons Jeter should have suited up for the Mid-Summer Classic. Can you imagine the standing ovation this guy would have gotten even from even a Pro-National League crowd at Chase Field? Talk about perfect timing after reaching one of the highest plateaus in all sports! A packed house on national television, with nothing else taking place in the entire Sports World! The entire pre-game could have been his personal showcase in honor of his entire 16 year career in the big leagues. Despite being a fan favorite across the entire nation with maybe the exception of New England, who’s to say Jeter won’t suffer a major injury in the coming twilight of his career that will prevent him from playing another all-star game, even with the fans voting him in?

No athlete can outplay and outrun father time forever and Derek Jeter’s lead on the old man is starting to shorten. Would he trade in his health and a sixth Yankee Championship under his watch, for yesterday’s all-star classic? Of course not, who would take that deal? But what if there are no more championship rings for Jeter’s jewelry box? The all-star stage is arguably the next best thing and the timing will never be better than it was last night. It’s all too bad, because the fans missed his pinstripes, hat and name on the back of his jersey. The American League missed his bat, glove and overall aura Jeter brings, when he steps onto the field.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

San Francisco will need more than Giant breaks this fall

No, there wasn’t anything wrong with you television. With high-definition we all saw it crystal clear. San Francisco Giants closer Brian Wilson striking out Nelson Cruz to win the first World Series Title for the Giants since their move from New York. 1954 was a long time ago with the Say-Hey Kid and an upset over the Cleveland Indians. So long ago, most fans of the orange and black couldn’t believe what the just witnessed. But it did happen although not without quite a few things going the right way besides an alignment of the stars beyond the Milky Way.

The Giants had to battle all the way to the final game of the regular season and beat the San Diego Padres to clinch the N.L. West title. The hero of that nail-biter was pitcher Jonathan Sanchez. Not only did he pitch well, but added an RBI triple to jump-start an often stagnate Giants offense. Once in the post-season, San Francisco after losing home-field advantage to the Atlanta Braves, received help from Atlanta second-baseman Brooks Conrad who committed three errors in game three, helping the Giants retake the series advantage as they advanced to the National League Championship Series. Once in Philadelphia, the unthinkable took place as Roy Halladay gave up a pair of homers to Cody Ross of all people and once again the Giants grabbed momentum and never let up. In the Fall Classic, you just knew it was San Francisco’s Series to lose when Ian Kinsler’s shot off Matt Cain should have given the Texas Rangers a 1-0 lead in the 5th inning of game two. Instead, an inch of the pad on top of the wall kept the ball inside of AT&T Park. Kinsler would end up stranded and the Giants would go on to take a 2-0 series lead and the rest of course is history. Talk about the baseball God’s putting a team in their good graces.

Now in giving the Giants their due, the pitching of the San Francisco staff made all of those breaks hold up. But that was last year and this season things are already quite different. The Giants still lead the worst division in baseball, the N.L. West by a game over the Arizona Diamondbacks. But the starting pitching has not been as over-powering as last year. Take for example Tim Lincecum’s 6-7 record with the all-star break a week away. Cain, the number two man in the rotation is just 7-5. If it weren’t for the miracle comeback of Ryan Vogelsong’s first half, the Giants wouldn’t be in first place. Not trying to nibble on the pitching too much, but this season out of Brian Wilson’s 24 saves very few have been clean and without the opposition threatening to comeback with men on base.

Offensively the Buster Posey injury was a killer! Not only was he the most valuable player to the team offensively but no one could steal bases with him behind the dish. Injuries to Pablo Sandoval and Freddie Sanchez have kept both of them from consistently producing solid numbers. Juan Uribe’s bat is now in Los Angeles, which is a good thing for Giants fans, while Aubrey Huff and Pat Burrell have both come down to earth from clutch years at the plate in 2010.
These Giants do have nine walk-off wins so far this season. But what you see by looking closer at this version of the Giants is very clear on your 60 inch high-def at home. Unless the defending champs pick up their level of play in the second half of the season in all areas, the Baseball Gods will not have enough charity this time around, to get them a repeat come October.

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