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2013 World Series Preview.
By: Mike Lindsley
The St. Louis Cardinals and Boston Red Sox will meet in the 2013 World Series, a re-match of the 2004 Fall Classic when Boston steamrolled the Red Birds and ended the curse. Here is a series preview:

Key Cardinal player: Wainwright and Wacha. Fenway Park is the #1 home field advantage in baseball. The Red Sox know how to hit there and where the dimensions are and the lineup rallies around Red Sox Nation's energy. Adam Wainwright and Michael Wacha (held the Dodgers scoreless in two starts in the NLCS to win series MVP) have a chance to set a tone early in this series in Games 1 and 2 in Boston.

Key Red Sox player: Mike Napoli. He has been the playoff MVP for Boston. But in the NL park in St. Louis, Boston will lose the DH and likely will play David Ortiz at first base and because he is a lefty hitter against righthanded pitching. Napoli needs to cash-in at home and give the team a jolt in big spots on the road as a pinch-hitter should he not start at first.

Bullpen battle: The Red Sox grinded at-bats out against Detroit in the ALCS and rightfully so. The bullpen was the unit Boston had to get to and was the ultimate weakness for the Tigers. Not with the Cards. They have guys who all throw 95-100 MPH and can neutralize the Boston bats. Boston, meantime, has a split-finger fastball throwing closer named Koji Uehara who has been lights out in the playoffs outside of a walk-off home run given up in Tampa Bay. Uehara has five playoff saves and gets better as the at-bat goes on, especially if he is ahead.

X-Factor: Allen Craig. Up until Labor Day, Craig was the NL MVP before he went out with a major foot injury. He is the most underrated hitter in baseball because he always gives a good at-bat and hits well in the clutch. Oh, and because his name isn't known nationally. He is back and will start at least a game or two and can pinch-hit. This is new life and length for the already-tough Cardinal lineup.

Prediction: Cardinals in 6. This is the most complete, clutch team in baseball.

Yanks' Interest in Carlos Beltran is Typical.
By: Mike Lindsley
The New York Yankees have interest in 36-year old Carlos Beltran.

Not 27 or 29 or 31 or 33 year-old Carlos Beltran.

36-year old Carlos Beltran.

This isn't to make fun of Beltran. He has, after all, been magical at times again this October. This article is to make fun of the Yankees BECAUSE THEY NEVER LEARN.

Back in 2004, Beltran tore October apart as a member of the Houston Astros after he was traded by the Royals in a three-team swap. Beltran hit eight home runs in that postseason and hit well over .400 in both National League postseason series. Beltran was THEE postseason player that year, and it ended up getting him a fat contract from the New York Mets.

And right there is the problem if you are a Yanks fan. Or should be the problem. Beltran was spectacular in 2004. Do you need a reminder what the Yanks did in 2004 in October? Didn't think so. One thing they lacked in those final four losses to Boston, all in a row, in the greatest meltdown in baseball history, was a clutch performer with men on base (the other thing they needed was a starter who could stop the bleeding but they let Andy Pettitte walk).

Fast-forward to 2005. This was essentially the same team coming back from 2004, a collection of guys who didn't know how to play together and couldn't hit with runners on base. The Yanks, still spiraling, did nothing in the off-season, yet knew they needed another outfielder for a long time with Bernie Williams nearing the end. But the Yanks didn't sign Beltran. Beltran, a five-tool player in his prime who can hit from both sides of the plate who could handle the New York and October pressure was that guy. Oh, and 27 years old at the time.

Sure, injuries have been a part of Beltran's career. But there was a need there and the Yanks didn't get him. So if New York didn't want him then, what in the world makes him that much more attractive now? For example, Do you think the Yankees miss the playoffs a few years later in 2008 with Beltran, a guy who that season drove in 112 RBI for the Mets and hit .284 with 27 home runs? No way.

The Yanks didn't try and trade for him later on either. Beltran can play anywhere in the outfield and that is something the Yanks needed post-2009 World Series title run. All the Mets wanted in 2011 at the trade deadline was a young stud pitcher. They got Zach Wheeler from the Giants for Beltran. The Yanks couldn't have made that move with Phil Hughes, a pitcher some felt then and still feel now can succeed in the NL and outside the fishbowl of New York? Couldn't they have thrown-in two other Class A pitchers? Brian Cashman just didn't work hard enough to try and get Beltran. Oh, and in 2011 and 2012, the Yanks didn't hit in the postseason. Beltran, in 2012 with the Cardinals, hit .444 and .300 against the Nationals and Giants in the NLDS and NLCS, respectively, with three home runs and six RBI. In 2011, Beltran didn't make postseason play with the Mets and Giants. He would have been hungry that year to play in October. And it should be mentioned that at times he almost willed San Francisco into the playoffs by himself with big hits down the stretch.

Now here we are. Beltran is 36. He has had wonderful postseason glory about 75% of the time, which is more than most, but it is all behind him. He can still perform. But he is a little slower and older and goes through bigger slumps. Take the 2013 NLCS as an example. Great start to the series, and then a downfall.

Older-slower-past his prime postseason glory once defined and now inconsistent. The player you don't give a three-year deal to. Especially at 36. That's not a shot at Beltran. It's the way you do baseball business these days.

Unless you are the Yankees (see: Vernon Wells). Typical Yankees have serious interest in 36-year old Carlos Beltran after the 2013 season. Of course they do.

How many times can you drive the broken-down car until it falls apart?

If you're the Yankees, the car for some reason never gets old.

Joe Girardi's Yankee Managing Days Roll On and it Won't Be Easy.
By: Mike Lindsley
The Yankees didn't give Joe Girardi a chance to talk with other teams. Hank and Hal didn't want Joe G, the former player and champion in pinstripes and a manager who has tasted the bubbly in 2009 to walk away to Washington or walk home to Chicago. They wanted him. For four more years and big money, $16 million in fact. Take it or leave it RIGHT FREAKING NOW.

And Joe took it.

But now things get really tough. This is a team in complete turmoil. Their closer, the greatest of them all, is gone for good. Mariano Rivera is not coming back, even if Enter Sandman is played on his voicemail with Girardi begging on the other end. Andy Pettitte, while old and crumbling in the end, is gone, another face Girardi recognizes all too well.

Then there is the A-Rod drama. When will he be suspended and for how many games? And will this distract the team even more than it did last year?

And then the Robinson Cano situation. The Yankees are in a no-win spot. If they sign him long-term, Cano is not the leader or clutch player or hustler the Yanks need. You cannot market him. He isn't a face of the franchise. Sure he is dynamic and talented and gives you 100 RBI, but that is all he gives you. In the postseason the guy falls down as well.

How about that Derek Jeter fellow? Age 40 soon. Not much left in the tank. Girardi cannot even count on him anymore.

How much payroll will be added to make the team better? Who is on the pitching staff? The farm system is a mess. Can CC Sabathia rebound from a horrific season in 2013 where his fastball was routinely in the mid to upper 80's? Is David Robertson, GULP, the closer? Close your eyes now.

There are so many questions and so little answers. This is a tough time in the Bronx. And an even tougher time for the manager.

It's a good thing Girardi has his money and his years, because those things are the only guarantees for him managing a Yankee team in deep trouble and no solid future to look at.

Mariano Rivera's Great 8 Postseason Mo-Ments/Performances.
By: Mike Lindsley
Everyone wants to do Top 10 lists or Top 5 lists. But how about a Great 8 list of the best Mariano Rivera postseason moments/performances? After all, as far as his career goes, “Mo” made his mark in the postseason. No disrespect to Derek Jeter, the face of the franchise since 1996, but everyone had great position players during his time and Mariano’s time. Those players maybe weren’t as clutch as Jeter and didn’t win as many rings, but they were at least there. NO ONE had a Rivera. So here are Mariano Rivera’s Great 8 postseason moments/performances.

1. 2003. Game 7 of the ALCS vs. the Red Sox. Rivera pitched three scoreless innings of relief (9th-10th-11th) giving up two hits, no walks, no runs, and stuck out three. 33 of Rivera’s 48 pitches were strikes. Aaron Boone ended up hitting the game-winning walk-off home run off Tim Wakefield on the first pitch in the bottom of the 11th inning, winning the game and sending New York to the World Series. Rivera was named ALCS MVP.

2. Oct. 4, 1995: Mo establishes himself as a postseason star with 5 1/3 innings in the playoffs without giving up a run. His most memorable moment came in Game 2 of the ALDS against the Mariners. Mo earned the win with 3.1 innings of scoreless relief in a 15-inning epic tilt that ends on a Jim Leyritz home run and celebration amongst Yankee fans in the Bronx.

3. 1998 postseason. Rivera makes 10 appearances, doesn’t allow a run and saves six postseason games. Yanks win the World Series in four games over San Diego, their second championship in three seasons.

4. 1999 postseason. Six saves, two each series, against the Rangers, Red Sox and Braves. Mo even picked-up two wins along the way. 12 1/3 innings pitched and no earned runs. This was another great example of how all of the teams in the 1999 playoffs had great position players, but only one team had Mariano Rivera, and it was the Yankees. Mo was on the field for the final out of the Fall Classic and the first back-to-back World Series sweeps in baseball in 60 years, when the Joe DiMaggio-led Yanks did it in 1938 and 1939.

5. 2009 World Series. The stakes were high against the defending champion Phillies. The Yanks hadn’t won a World Series in nearly a decade. Mo rose to the occasion. 5.1 IP in four games, two saves, just three hits allowed and three strikeouts. Rivera was on the field in a non-save situation in Game 6 at the new Yankee Stadium to celebrate the 27th title in Yankees history and one for the thumb for the great Mo.

6. 1996 postseason. Before Mo was a great closer, he was an elite set-up man to John Wetteland. Mo pitched 14 1/3 innings in the ALDS-ALCS-World Series against the Rangers-Orioles-Braves, giving up just one run in eight games while striking out 10 batters. The Yanks captured their first World Series since 1978.

7. 2000 World Series. Mo was again on the mound to get the final out of the Fall Classic, a fly out to center field which Bernie Williams caught. Rivera had two saves and seven strikeouts in the series and ironically for him, actually gave up two runs. But it didn’t matter in the end. The Yanks beat the Mets in five games and Mo was again a major reason why. The other team once again didn’t have a “Mo.”

8. 1999 World Series. Rivera gets four straight outs to clinch the Yankees' second straight World Series title, this time over the National League team of the decade, the Atlanta Braves, and wins World Series MVP with a pair of saves and a win.

5 Things Could Cost Yanks Playoffs.
By: Mike Lindsley
The 2013 New York Yankees will be remembered for many things, but ultimately it could be a team remembered for one thing above all, and that is as a non-playoff team. The Yanks are in danger of missing the playoffs for just the second time in the last 19 seasons. If Yankee Stadium isn't open in October, these will be the reasons why:

1. Losing to the bad. Sweeps earlier in the year by the White Sox and Mets really hurt the Yanks and then losing two of three to lowly San Diego was the cherry on top. People who think that not every game matters in a 162-game schedule are out of their minds. This is solid proof.

2. CC Sabathia. If Sabathia was a touch above average, the Yanks might have 5-10 more wins whether he was the winning pitcher or not. Hiroki Kuroda became the ace of the team and then felt the dog days of August later in the season while CC continued to be marginal. The Yanks really never had a true "ace" all year which hurt them. Kuroda was their ace by default.

3. Phil Hughes. Hughes' continued regression again left a gaping hole in the rotation and gave the Yankees no pitching depth. Part of the reason teams win World Series titles is pitching depth, and the Yanks never had it this year. Blame Hughes first and foremost.

4. Inept offense. Sure, now, the Yanks are scoring and have since the addition of Alfonso Soriano. But truthfully, between injuries and bad at-bats and here and there slumps by Robinson Cano, the Yanks couldn't hit a lick for two months of the season or more. That set them back in the early going.

5. Derek Jeter's absence. Look, it is never about ONE guy in baseball, but this guy is monumental to the Yanks' success. Jeter never healed from that broken ankle suffered in last year's playoffs and the team was hurt by it. He lengthens the lineup, can bunt people over, gets the big hit, knows how to get the job done with runners on base with timely sac fly balls or hitting it to the proper side of the field and has tremendous leadership. Not having Derek Jeter, especially in the beginning of the year with so many people out, really devastated this club.

By: Mike Lindsley. Follow him on Twitter @MikeLSports

Tough Days For Derek Jeter
By: Mike Lindsley
Things just aren't what they used to be in the Bronx. Tickets all around the first level in the stadium are too expensive. The crowd is subtle and weak. You can't really see Monument Park. The team is old and worn down. A-Rod is a complete headache. Jorge Posada is long gone. You can't find the owners. Bernie Williams is playing guitar. Top brass wants to lower payroll. CC Sabathia's arm is dead. The farm system is an embarrassment. And Mariano Rivera is retiring after this season.

But perhaps the biggest sign of change and the future Yankees fans should be dreading, unless they live in a baseball cave, is Derek Sanderson Jeter's attempt to play baseball this season after trying to return multiple times from a broken ankle suffered last October. Jeter's attempt at swinging a bat at fastballs he can no longer keep up with. His attempt at running down the baseline on a ground ball at 85% and laying-up because that ankle is barely healthy. The captain's inability to get two-out hits like the old days. Jump throw from the hole? Forget about it if he had the opportunity.

Rivera has been the biggest x-factor of the last several decades in baseball. Everyone has had great position players, but no one has had a closer of his magnitude in the regular season or more importantly in the postseason. But Jeter still represents the face of the team. Ruth-Gehrig-DiMaggio-Mantle-Munson-Mattingly-Jeter. Those are the guys we easily match the team with.

So now, it is just brutal to watch. Jeter could have been injured at age 29 like he was last year in the postseason at age 38. But the recovery at his now-age of 39 with an injury as serious as a broken ankle is the tricky part. Who knows, maybe he will come back strong next year and play until he is 42 while landing in the lineup at DH 80 times a year.

But the reality is, these are tough days for Derek Jeter. The guy once told me he would play the game for free if it guaranteed a World Series ring annually. I believed him then and I believe him now. He is a flat-out winner and gamer and loves the game and his teammates and the Yankee uniform.

But he is struggling to play baseball. And Derek Jeter knows it. He is just too proud to admit it.

There aren't many like Derek Jeter. And that's what makes this so tough.

By: Mike Lindsley. Follow him on Twitter @MikeLSports

42 For 42: Mariano Rivera's 31st Greatest Moment
By: Jay Sanin
Mariano Rivera has used his legendary cut fastball to break a lot of bats during his career, most of which are presumably discarded like other useless pieces of wood. The Minnesota Twins, however, decided to turn some of those broken bats into a gift for Rivera during this season's farewell tour, making him a rocking chair out of them. The "Chair Of Broken Dreams" is the number 31 moment of our countdown.

How cool is that rocking chair, by the way? It doesn't look as if it'd be particularly enjoyable to sit on, but that's not the point. Somewhere in Mariano Rivera's home, he'll have a piece of furniture that also serves as a testament to his greatness as a pitcher and to his ability to absolutely demolish the bats of his foes with regularity.

This was by far the coolest gift bestowed upon Mariano during his farewell tour so far this season. Opponents within the Yankees' division will really have to step up in the creativity department if they want to come anywhere close to the level of the Twins' gift.

Rivera took time before his final game at Target Field to thank Twins employees, as he has been doing at every stop on his farewell tour, and was presented with the chair by Twins manager Ron Gardenhire. He was also given a $10,000 check for the Mariano Rivera Foundation by the team.

Only thirty moments remain in the countdown of the top Mariano Rivera moments, and they are all on field moments from here on out. Keep checking back to find out what they are over the final thirty regular season game days of his career.

By: Jay Sanin. Follow him on Twitter @Jay_Sanin

42 For 42: Mariano Rivera's 32nd Greatest Moment
By: Jay Sanin
Mariano Rivera is one of the faces of New York sports, which makes it weird to think that he spent some time playing in the Albany area before getting his break in the Major Leagues. However, he did just that as a member of the Albany-Colonie Yankees in the number 32 moment of our countdown.

Rivera spent less than a season in the Albany-Colonie Yankees uniform with the Yankees double-A affiliate, posting a 3-0 record in nine starts with a 2.27 ERA. Later that season, Rivera was promoted to Columbus to join the Yankees trip-A affiliate, the Columbus Clippers.

These stories are common in Major League Baseball, given that just about every player that makes it to the major leagues spends some time in the minors. But Rivera, along with Derek Jeter, was far and away the best product to ever come through the Albany-Colonie Yankees, which makes his time here not only special to the club, but to the Albany area fans that were able to come out and see him before he was a star.

The Albany-Colonie Yankees were previously the Albany A’s, a member of the Oakland Athletics farm system, and eventually moved to Norwich to become the Norwich Navigators in the Yankees minor league system.

By: Jay Sanin. Follow him on Twitter @Jay_Sanin

42 For 42: Mariano Rivera's 33rd Greatest Moment
By: Jay Sanin
Mariano Rivera was in the middle of his first season as a full time closer in 1997 and he was doing well enough to warrant an appearance in the Major League Baseball All-Star Game in Cleveland. It was his first All-Star Game appearance, his first All-Star Game save, and it is the number 33 moment of our countdown.

Rivera made quick work of the National League lineup in the ninth inning, striking out Charles Johnson, inducing a groundball to first base from Mark Grace, and getting a line out from Moises Alou to end the game with a 1-2-3 ninth inning, securing a 3-1 win for the American League.

By the way, isn't it weird seeing Mariano Rivera pitching out of the windup as he was in this video? He goes out of the stretch now, so to see him in the windup is a testament to just how long ago this was and how many adjustments he has made over the course of his career.

Also, please take a minute to take a look at the rosters in this game. The entertainment value of running down each team's lineup and counting all of the guys that have come out as steroid users since then is well worth the little bit of extra time. And if we can also just take a moment to remember that Jeff Cirillo was once an All-Star, that'd be great too.

This was the first of Rivera's nine All-Star Game appearances, in which he has never conceded an earned run. This is yet another amazing feat in the unbelievable career of Mariano Rivera.

By: Jay Sanin. Follow him on Twitter @Jay_Sanin

42 For 42: Mariano Rivera's 34th Greatest Moment
By: Jay Sanin
Mariano Rivera is one of the faces of the New York Yankees, and has been since the 1990s. But that may have never been the case if he hadn't been undrafted in the 1992 Major League Baseball expansion draft, the number 34 moment of our countdown.

In November of 1992, the brand new Florida Marlins and Colorado Rockies were given the opportunity to take their pick from other Major League Baseball franchises in an expansion draft. Each team was able to protect 15 players from their 40 man rosters, with the rest of the roster and minor league rosters up for grabs. Rivera, a few years from breaking into the majors, went unprotected.

The first pick for the Rockies was pitcher David Nied, and the first pick for the Marlins was outfielder Nigel Wilson. Nied only lasted in the majors until 1995, while Wilson was out of the league by 1996. By 1996, Rivera had won his first of five World Series rings.

Another interesting fact from the expansion draft was that Trevor Hoffman, arguably the second best closer of all time, was the first eventual All-Star taken in the expansion draft at pick number eight by the Marlins.

Clearly it was too early to know that Mariano Rivera was going to be such a star, but had he been chosen by the Marlins or Rockies in the 1992 MLB Expansion Draft, Mo may not have won five championships, may not be baseball's all-time saves king, and definitely would not be one of the greatest Yankees of all time.

This is yet another moment in the career of Mariano Rivera that shows he was destined to play for the greatest franchise in baseball and to do the great things that he's done during his storied career.

By: Jay Sanin. Follow him on Twitter @Jay_Sanin

42 For 42: Mariano Rivera's 35th Greatest Moment
By: Jay Sanin
In addition to his excellence on the mound, Mariano Rivera is excellent in the realm of philanthropy, doing great things for people with the Mariano Rivera Foundation along with other charities. Just this week, Rivera visited Saratoga to raise money for Refuge of Hope, the number 35 moment in our 42 For 42 countdown.

As reported by the Saratogian, Rivera was in Saratoga on Monday at a charity event where over $300,000 were raised for the charity. The event was a $1,000 a plate dinner with VIPs paying $2,000 a plate and receiving a jersey signed by Rivera.

At the event, he stopped to give a kiss to a wheelchair-bound child whose father told Rivera what a devoted fan she was. Mo, whose compassion and generosity know no bounds, invited her to be his guest at an upcoming Yankees game.

Mariano got back to New York from the charity event at around 2:30 a.m. according to the Saratogian article, but was unfazed as he recorded the final two outs of the first game of Tuesday's doubleheader against the Toronto Blue Jays after Joba Chamberlain failed to inspire confidence by allowing a runner on base in the inning.

Not only is Mariano Rivera one of the best pitchers of all time, but he's one of the most socially conscious athletes around as well.

By: Jay Sanin. Follow him on Twitter @Jay_Sanin

42 For 42: Mariano Rivera's 36th Greatest Moment
By: Jay Sanin
There aren't many hitters that have come through Major League Baseball in Mariano Rivera's career that can be considered truly fearsome. Barry Bonds, however, was one of them. Despite his alleged dealings with performance enhancing drugs over the course of his career, Bonds was still one of the best hitters of all time, and the game's home run king. Whether you like him or not, his matchup with Mariano Rivera during a 2002 interleague game between the Yankees and San Francisco Giants was historic, and the number 36 moment of our countdown.

Bonds, five years away from breaking the all-time home run record, only faced Rivera this one time in his career. The moment sticks out to me because I was at the game at the ripe, young age of 11 years old. I practically begged my dad to take me to the game because I thought that Bonds was amazing, even though there was a part of me that knew he was not hitting all of those home runs cleanly.

Earlier in the same game, Bonds smashed a three run homer in the first inning that went into the upper deck in right field. Sitting in the lower deck in right field, the ball flew right over my dad and I which he hated, but I secretly loved.

Before facing off with Rivera, Bonds was 2-3 on the game with a home run, single and a walk. When Bonds came to the plate with a man on first and one out in the top of the ninth, the game tied at 3, you could feel the excitement.

Mariano had the clear advantage with his cut fastball, simply by virtue of the fact that Bonds had to face it from the left side of the plate. He started Bonds off with a strike, alternating balls and strikes until the count was even at 2-2. After Bonds fouled off a pitch, Rivera threw a high fastball. Bonds never stood a chance, swinging and missing. Rivera won the only matchup between the two titans of the game.

When asked about facing Rivera, Bonds simply said: "He's nasty. That's why he's the best."

By: Jay Sanin. Follow him on Twitter @Jay_Sanin

42 For 42: Mariano Rivera's 37th Greatest Moment
By: Jay Sanin
In life, whether you are the CEO of a big corporation, a famous actor, or a star athlete, you have to get your start somewhere. That is the focus of moment number 37 of our 42 For 42 countdown, when Mariano Rivera got his start in baseball by signing his first contract all the way back in 1990.

Rivera, from Panama, originally wanted to be a professional soccer player but was not cut out for it. He picked up baseball, joining an amateur team in Panama City as a shortstop. He was noticed by Herb Raybourn, director of Latin American operations for the New York Yankees, who saw that he was athletic enough to play the game, but not as a shortstop.

Then, fate intervened, as Rivera volunteered to pitch for the team, impressing his teammates who contacted the Yankees to tell them about Mo's talent on the mound. They invited him to a tryout in Panama City.

While Rivera was nowhere near the polished pitching machine he is today, he had enough raw talent to impress Raybourn, who signed him to a $3,000 amateur contract to join a rookie ball squad affiliated with the Yankees.

Today, players in the NBA Developmental League make a minimum of $13,000, many of which will never be good enough to see an NBA court. Just put that into perspective when thinking about the fact that Mariano Rivera, the greatest closer in baseball history, was once only worth a quarter of that amount when he started his professional baseball career.

Now, Mariano Rivera makes $10,000,000 per year with the Yankees, which is 3,333 times more than he made on that first contract back in 1990. Without being discovered over 23 years ago, none of the other moments in this countdown would have ever happened, and baseball would have been robbed one of the greatest players in its history.

By: Jay Sanin. Follow him on Twitter @Jay_Sanin

42 For 42: Mariano Rivera's 38th Greatest Moment
By: Jay Sanin
Mariano Rivera is arguably one of the greatest baseball players of all time. But with his career coming to an end soon, he's going to need to find ways to occupy his time when it's done. The Harlem Globetrotters extended an olive branch to Rivera, offering to help him fill the void on the basketball court by drafting him earlier this year in the number 38 moment of our countdown.

Rivera was "drafted" by the Globetrotters in June. Of course, they didn't expect him to actually accept their invitation to play for the team. Each year, the Globetrotters choose a couple of big names to list in the press release that announces which players are actually joining the team to draw attention to the announcement.

In the press release from the Globetrotters (yes, the Globetrotters have a press release for a draft that isn't even real), the team praised Rivera's charitable efforts and ability to close games, which is just as important in basketball as it is in baseball.

"And in the fourth quarter, when the Globetrotters need to close out a game, who better than the best closer of all-time? Mariano Rivera has made a living by finishing off opponents. We always have a place on our roster for winning athletes with that kind of mindset.  His charitable work through the Mariano Rivera Foundation also embodies the spirit of the Globetrotters giving back to the community."

Rivera, who was drafted along with WNBA star Brittney Griner, didn't take the selection seriously. When asked about the invite from the Globetrotters, Mariano simply laughed.

By: Jay Sanin. Follow him on Twitter @Jay_Sanin

42 For 42: Mariano Rivera's 39th Greatest Moment
By: Jay Sanin
Mariano Rivera is synonymous with Metallica's Enter Sandman after a Major League career consisting of well over a decade of entering baseball games with the song serving as the soundtrack. As a result, the Cleveland Indians decided to give Rivera a gold copy of the album as their gift to him during his farewell tour this season.

I applauded the Indians at the time for their creativity in coming up with this as a gift for Rivera, as plenty of teams have just made donations to his charity. While there is no such thing as a bad charitable donation in any situation, the teams that have gone above and beyond in coming up with cool gifts for Mo have done a great job in doing so, the Indians being no exception.

Really, this is a perfect gift for Rivera, who has arguably become more famous than the song itself, making people think of him before Metallica when the opening riff is played.

This was easily the best gift of Mariano's farewell tour so far this year, with the exception of Minnesota's gift, the Chair of Broken Dreams, which will definitely be making an appearance later in the countdown.

The album was presented to him by Indians president Mark Shapiro, along with Rock and Roll Hall of Fame president Greg Harris.

By: Jay Sanin. Follow him on Twitter @Jay_Sanin

42 For 42: Mariano Rivera's 40th Greatest Moment
By: Jay Sanin
Mariano Rivera is obviously influential on a baseball field, but it can be argued that he is just as influential off of it. Rivera, a native of Panama, was finishing a series with the New York Yankees in Texas against the Rangers. That same night, the semifinals of the CONCACAF Gold Cup, a North American international soccer tournament, were being held in Cowboys Stadium. His native Panama were taking on Mexico that night, and Mariano just had to be there to support his countrymen.

The day before the game, Rivera met up with the Panama national team to deliver some words of wisdom ahead of a match in which they were surely underdogs, not only because of the level of talent possessed by Mexico, but because of the proximity of the game to Mexico itself, which resulted in a large percentage of the crowd cheering for El Tri.

Rivera certainly inspired the Panamanian team, known as Los Canaleros, leading striker Blas Perez, who plays in the MLS with FC Dallas, to say this of Mariano's meeting with the team prior to the match:

"It was a very motivational conversation, He’s a person who is a great believer in God, he gave us a lot of inspiring quotes that will stay with us and we have to [look to him] as a great example. Mariano’s a great figure in Panama and the US and we’re hoping to do the great things he’s done."

It was only the second time that Panama had reached the semifinals of the tournament and, thanks in part to Rivera's pep talk, the team came through with a shocking 2-1 victory over Mexico. In the video below, Mariano spoke about the match to reporters at around the 2:20 mark.

Mariano Rivera is clearly a great inspiration on the baseball field, but he is also one wherever else he goes, as evidenced by this quintessential Mariano Rivera moment.

By: Jay Sanin. Follow him on Twitter @Jay_Sanin

42 For 42: Mariano Rivera's 41st Greatest Moment
By: Jay Sanin
Mariano Rivera is certainly the greatest closer in baseball history, but many people don't remember that he also saw four plate appearances in his storied 19 year career. And despite having a batting average of .000, Mo still managed to drive in one run in his career in the number 41 moment of his career.

In 2009, back when Sunday Night Baseball was a big deal and the Subway Series was still kind of cool, Mariano Rivera stepped up to the plate with the bases loaded. He was in the middle of a multiple inning save attempt, so could not be pinch hit for. He was going to have to face Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez on his own.

Rivera hung in there, working the count full against the man known as K-Rod for much of his career. The payoff pitch was amazing, hilarious, and another notch in the belt of Mariano Rivera.

Even when he's at the plate, Mariano Rivera is able to intimidate the person standing 60 feet and 6 inches away from him. That's what has made him so great, and that's why this moment made the countdown.

By: Jay Sanin. Follow him on Twitter @Jay_Sanin

42 For 42: Mariano Rivera's 42nd Greatest Moment
By: Jay Sanin
Believe it or not, there are only 42 games remaining in the final regular season of the storied career of New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera. With the playoffs looking unlikely for the Yankees this season, it's also possible that these next 42 games will be it for the most storied closer in baseball history.

In honor of the Yankees legend, we here at 104.5 The Team have decided to pay tribute to Rivera in these last 42 games by counting down the 42 greatest, most influential, most quintessential Mariano Rivera moments from throughout his career, recounting the good, the bad, and everything that made him such a legend.

The countdown starts at number 42, which is a recent moment from Mo, thus one that is not nearly as powerful as some of those from earlier in his career. However, as the career of the player on the other side of this moment continues to develop, this moment may look much more impressive, especially if he can continue playing like he is in his rookie season.

The 42nd greatest moment in our 42 for 42 countdown is Mariano Rivera's strikeout of Yasiel Puig from the 2013 season.

Puig has taken the baseball world by storm this season, combining his speed, power, strong arm and all-around athleticism into a phenomenon that breathed life into a baseball season where storylines were lacking at times.

This matchup between Puig and Rivera was captivating, not only because it was a matchup between two very skilled players, but also because it pitted Rivera, one of the last great players to come up in the 1990s with Puig, who was in his first season. It was the ultimate battle between the old school and the new school, one that Rivera won, in typical Mariano Rivera fashion, as he's done so many times since becoming a Yankee in 1995, when I was just four years old.

By: Jay Sanin. Follow him on Twitter @Jay_Sanin

A-Rod Could Have Been LeBron James
By: Mike Lindsley
Alex Rodriguez had the goods as a baseball teenager. Five tools is what you heard. Talent through the roof. And the smile and good looks to make him a TV superstar. Oops. Just about two decades later, we have nothing in terms of A-Rod. His lies and deception and silly acts and steroid use are tireless at this point. What could have been? A lot more. A lot more as in baseball's LeBron James.

LeBron has delivered, unlike A-Rod. He was the most hyped athlete of all-time. High school to the NBA. Led a Cavaliers team to the NBA Finals with no-name players. He has won two titles in Miami. He has turned into a King. He has four league MVP awards and now relishes the postseason and has shown he can dominate in the NBA Finals. James is now clutch. He's the league's best passer and fast break player and the toughest match-up in the land. He is a good teammate and gets the best out of his Heat outfit. He gives back to his high school and Pop Warner teams and rides a bike with regular people for a good cause and poses pictures on jury duty. James doesn't fake a thing about it, unlike A-Rod, who commits to a charity named after a young man who committed suicide due to his lack of control off steroids, and then A-Rod himself lacks control and gets linked to Biogenesis. Talk about different athletes here.

We have the guy who gets it and the guy who is clueless. But they could have been one in the same in different sports.

But instead, there is LeBron James the good in basketball and A-Rod the bad in baseball.

By: Mike Lindsley, "Mid-Day with Mike," M-F 1-4, Yankees pre/post game host on 104.5 The Team ESPN Radio. Follow him on Twitter @MikeLSports.

The Real A-Rod Suspension Situation.
By: Mike Lindsley
A-Rod has been suspended 211 games by Major League Baseball for, according to the official statement released, possessing testosterone and human-growth hormone over multiple years, for attempting to hide his violations and for "a course of conduct intended to obstruct and frustrate the Office of the Commissioner," announced Monday by MLB.More... Rodriguez was first suspended for 214 games. Then 211, starting this Thursday. And can actually play while appealing, which he has three days to do. WHAAAAAT? Are you confused yet?

This is all you need to know in this order about the entire A-Rod soap/drug opera:

1. A-Rod was suspended by MLB at 3:00 PM EST on Monday, August 5 for repeatedly violating the Joint Drug Policy and impeding the investigation about Biogenesis through the 2014 season.

2. He has been given a three-day appeal window, which puts the initial suspension of 214 at 211 because A-Rod is allowed to play during the appeal and will play at least three games. ESPN television does a horrendous job explaining these things.

3. It looks like A-Rod will appeal within this 72-hour period, which means the ACTUAL appeal will not be heard until early October or November. Michael Weiner, executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, has already stated as much. A-Rod will likely have nothing going on in October because the Yanks won't be playing OR he will lose the appeal if heard in October because Rodriguez doesn't come through during this month anyway (come on, laugh a little).

So there you have it. In the end, expect Alex Rodriguez to miss somewhere between 150-211 games starting next season. The only guarantees in all of this should A-Rod appeal, which he will because he is A-Rod, will be that Rodriguez will miss all of next season and will in fact play the rest of this season because of the appeals process. He could miss part of 2015 only if the game total of the suspension is obviously greater than 162, a full MLB season.

By: Mike Lindsley, "Mid-Day with Mike," M-F 1-4, Yankees pre/post game host on 104.5 The Team ESPN Radio. Follow him on Twitter @MikeLSports.

Hiroki Kuroda is Yanks’ MVP in 2013.
By: Mike Lindsley
Just having the nonsense with Alex Rodriguez would be enough to tarnish a season for the New York Yankees, even one in which they made the playoffs and fought for the American League flag. But on top of that you have so many other things that have gone wrong.

Derek Jeter not being able to get on the field as well as Mark Teixeira's season-ending injury and Curtis Granderson missing tons of time.

Horrible signings. Vernon Wells, Kevin Youkilis, Travis Hafner. Really, Brian Cashman?

A very likely non-playoff year.

A very likely non-playoff year for Mr. Postseason Mariano Rivera in his final season.

The awful production of Phil Hughes and regression of CC Sabathia and the continued spiral of Andy Pettitte.

The lineup that looks Little League-ish on some nights.

Yea the team has had some issues in 2013. And then there is Hiroki Kuroda.

Kuroda has been the team's MVP. Not even close. For all of the problems on the pitching staff, and yes the pitching overall as well as the bullpen have been good enough to win more games than New York has, Kuroda has been the #1 guy, the stabilizer, the guy who has somehow gone pitch for pitch with guys named Felix Hernandez, Clayton Kershaw and Matt Harvey. Kuroda has given the Yanks a chance to win in every start but one this season. And he hasn't gotten any offense. Yet he has double digit wins and his ERA is lower than most. He should have 15 wins.

So for all of the dark and doom and gloom this season for the pinstripes, if there has been one bright spot, look no further than Hiroki Kuroda.

He's been called crafty and unflappable and a stabilizer.

Add 2013 New York Yankees MVP to that list of names.

By: Mike Lindsley, "Mid-Day with Mike," M-F 1-4, Yankees pre/post game host on 104.5 The Team ESPN Radio. Follow him on Twitter @MikeLSports.

Robinson Cano's Production Key For Yanks Down The Stretch.
By: Mike Lindsley
It never comes down to one guy in team sports (basketball sometimes), but when a major RBI man in a baseball lineup has big game after big game down the stretch of a season, it rubs off on everyone else and the team is overall is a much better place in terms of making the postseason. If the Yankees are to make the playoffs, they need Robinson Cano to produce. Plain and simple.

Derek Jeter's place with the Yankees is forever cemented. He proved that again in his Sunday comeback game against Tampa Bay, going 2-4 with a first pitch, first at-bat home run that set the tone in an eventual 6-5 win. But can Jeter carry the Yanks with his still-recovering ankle and at age 39? Unlikely. The future might be Cano's in this spot. The future face of the franchise might be Cano. Thus, he must produce when it's on the line. And October is very much on the line right now as the dog days of August near.

The Yanks are looking up at the AL East leader and more realistically, the AL Wild Card spots. They have only missed the playoffs once since 1994, the 2008 season, manager Joe Girardi's first with the team. If they are to make it again, New York needs everyone's effort.

But one guy the most. Robinson Cano. Cano's Yankee future is at-stake as he becomes a free agent after 2013.

He would do himself a favor by being the main reason the New York Yankees make the playoffs again this season.

By: Mike Lindsley, "Mid-Day with Mike," M-F 1-4, Yankees pre/post game host on 104.5 The Team ESPN Radio. Follow him on Twitter @MikeLSports.

Alex Rodriguez Could Face Lifetime Ban.
By: Mike Lindsley
Citing Major League Baseball sources, Jim Axelrod of CBS Evening News reports that Alex Rodriguez could be dealt a lifetime ban for using performance-enhancing drugs through Biogenesis.

A source from MLB said a plea deal looks pretty bleak for A-Rod right now. Rodriguez, it appears, is in much deeper than Ryan Braun of the Brewers, who was recently suspended for the rest of the season for his involvement with the Miami clinic. Sources are actually calling the evidence against A-Rod "far beyond" what MLB had on Braun.

Amazingly, A-Rod has never been suspended for steroid use even though he admitted using PED's in 2009 and a book was released stating his drug use. A first time offense is 50 games. A second offense is 100 games. A third offense is a lifetime ban. Rodriguez is believed to have multiple offenses within the Biogenesis era which would give him that 50-150 game territory. However, if they are major offenses, Rodriguez could fall into that "lifetime ban" category because as stated above, three violations of MLB's drug policy removes a player from the game.

Whatever the suspension ends up being, it is believed to come down in two to three weeks.

By: Mike Lindsley, "Mid-Day with Mike," M-F 1-4, Yankees pre/post game host on 104.5 The Team ESPN Radio. Follow him on Twitter @MikeLSports.

How the Yanks Can Make the 2013 Playoffs.
By: Mike Lindsley
The Yankees are projected for 87 wins. They have 26 games in the second half against the Rays, Orioles and Red Sox with 12 against Boston. How can the Yanks make the playoffs for the 18th time in 19 seasons? Here is how:

1. Timely hitting. The Yankee offense is brutal to be kind. Other than Robinson Cano and Brett Gardner penciled in, you have no idea who will be in there. Can Derek Jeter do something? Can Curtis Granderson provide something? Can, gulp, Alex Rodriguez come back and give New York more than David Adams did or what Kevin Youkilis was supposed to give? Whoever it is, the Yanks need to hit with runners on base, period.

2. Big 2nd from CC. CC Sabathia must pitch better in the second half. He won't ever be the 2007-2011 Sabathia again, but he must look at least like a #2 guy or half of a #1, not a #3 or #4.

3. Bullpen to Mo. The bullpen overall has been good. If the pen can get the ball to x-factor Mariano Rivera even more in one-run games and close games, New York has a shot to get back in this thing.

4. Beat the East. As you saw above, the Yanks play a heap of games against AL East counterparts. They must win series against the Rays, Red Sox and Birds because chances are, those teams will be battling for the AL Wild Cards, if not the AL East, like the Yanks.

5. Cano the carrier. Robinson Cano hasn't had a lot of protection in the lineup, but he also has come up empty a lot this year. He needs to provide the Yanks with big hits in big spots. Cano's production could add five more wins alone.

Prediction: Yankees somehow make the playoffs. Sabathia usually turns it up in the second half, the pitching will continue as a pleasant surprise, the Yanks will get a few players back and the bullpen should be solid. If nothing else, the entire team should put everything on the line so that Mariano Rivera gets one more crack at October.

By: Mike Lindsley, \"Mid-Day with Mike,\" 1-4, Yankee pre/post-game host on 104.5 ESPN Radio. Follow him on Twitter @MikeLSports.

A-Rod’s Latest Should Surprise No One.
By: Mike Lindsley
Alex Rodriguez is a clown. He is a fraud. He is a broken-down steroid user. He is a cheater. He is bad for baseball. He is downright horrible for the Yankees. And, like the 5th grade student in the back of the room who can't stop annoying the teacher, he is a bad boy with bad behavior.

So this latest episode of Tweeting that he has been cleared for rehab games by his hip doctor Bryan Kelly, when he isn't even close to rehab games and should really be cleared by HELLO, his baseball team and team doctors, should come as no surprise to anyone. The circus that is A-Rod never ends.

General Manager Brian Cashman, the guy who never wanted A-Rod back in 2007 after the drama queen opted out of his contract, told, \"You know what, when the Yankees want to announce something, [we will].\" \"Alex should just shut the f--- up. That's it. I'm going to call Alex now.\" Cashman had enough of Rodriguez a long time ago. Now he is publicly swearing about him. That is what A-Roid has done to the franchise. Embarrassment, failure on the field (which should be bad enough) and organization staples (love or hate Cashman all you want, he is one) stressing out in public and dropping f-bombs in frustration.

This is what Hank and Hal Steinbrenner wanted. They wanted A-Rod representing the Yankees for years to come, even if it wasn't what was best for the team and the face of the franchise Derek Jeter. And so the re-upped contract came with more years and more money and more incentives. Then the steroids (twice?) and the poker games and the back pages and the lying and the troubling figures in his camp, including Tony Bosch of Biogenesis. The Steinbrenners still sit around and do nothing about it other than saying they are \"disappointed in him.\" Well, being disappointed isn't enough.

The Steinbrenner pretty boys are still the only ones who can fix it. Their Dad would have dropped A-Rod a long time ago and eaten the money. Because even \"The Boss\" would have eventually figured out that Alex Rodriguez has tainted those pinstripes long enough.

By: Mike Lindsley, \"Mid-Day with Mike,\" 1-4, Yankee pre/post-game host on 104.5 ESPN Radio. Follow him on Twitter @MikeLSports.

Most Beloved Yank of All-Time.
By: Mike Lindsley
Picking greatest Yankees in any category is like splitting hairs or flipping a coin or picking the most ripe apple in the bunch during the months of September and October in the Northeast. How about the most beloved Yankee of all-time? Just as tough as the next question when regarding the pinstripes, but I have narrowed it (I think) down to a Top 5. Enjoy.
  1. Mickey Mantle. Mantle took over for the legendary Joe DiMaggio in centerfield. People took right away to his lethal combination of speed and power, the greatest combination of those skills the game has ever seen. He had the charm and the youth and the look and the smile. He came from the Midwest to New York and excelled, which people from that area of the country aren't supposed to do. He was on television and in the spotlight more than Duke Snider and Willie Mays because he was in the World Series just about every year during the Golden Age of Baseball in New York City. Even though people knew about The Mick's womanizing and drinking, there was something about the Yankee star that made people not care. They loved him too much. Plus, what is not to love about the baseball name Mickey Mantle? Too perfect. Legendary public address announcer Bob Sheppard once noted that Mickey Mantle was one of his favorite names to announce. Sheppard once said, \"Mickey Mantle says 'Every time Bob Sheppard introduced me at Yankee Stadium, I got shivers up my spine.' And I said to him, 'So did I.'\" Only Mickey Mantle could do that to "The Voice of God.\"

  2. Don Mattingly. There is a feeling of love but also sadness that turns into more love because Mattingly, unlike so many Yanks legends before and after him, never played in or won a World Series. Mattingly had 14 great seasons in pinstripes but appeared in just one postseason (1995). He won an MVP and was a leader. But "Donnie Baseball" played on some awful teams. Many Yankee fans would trade in one Joe Torre era World Series win for one during Mattingly's tenure. That is how much fans love him.

  3. Lou Gehrig. Babe Ruth was beloved, but not like \"The Iron Horse.\" Gehrig brought a new sense of pride (yes, pun intended) and class to the Yanks. Later, he lost his life to the disease that claimed his name, which made Gehrig a tragic figure and enhanced people's love for him even more.

  4. Thurman Munson. Players in Yankee history wanted to win as bad as Munson, but not more than him. Munson defined guts, winning, class, intensity and teamwork all in one. August 2, 1979 will never be forgotten, when Munson was tragically killed in a plane crash while flying back to see his family in Ohio. Munson's legacy lives on and the love people show for him in the Bronx to this day is astounding.

  5. Derek Jeter. Talk about winning. Five World Series rings and seven Fall Classic appearances. From day one as a rookie in 1996, Jeter took the bull by the horns and made the Yankees his franchise, which isn't easy to do and the fans came to love him for it right away. The legend grew from there with leadership, amazing October feats and Hall of Fame benchmarks like 3,000 hits. Jeter crosses over to many pockets of baseball fans including women who love his looks and even those who hate the Yanks but can't hate Jeter. He has been too good for the game. Every Little League player should aspire to be Derek Jeter. Class, respect, will, leadership, teamwork, love for the game, winner, good attitude, guts and a clutch player you can count on. People love those qualities and they should. Derek Jeter represents them all.

By: Mike Lindsley, \"Mid-Day with Mike,\" 1-4, Yankee pre/post-game host on 104.5 ESPN Radio. Follow him on Twitter @MikeLSports.

Oakland Coliseum is new horror house of baseball for Yanks.
By: Mike Lindsley
The Yankees' troubles at Tropicana Field are no secret, but add Oakland Coliseum to the list as the new baseball horror house for New York. The recent series sweep by the A's was ugly.

It started in Game 1 with CC Sabathia having no control or command of his pitches. The Athletics' lineup took advantage and hit balls hard all over the yard in a 6-4 win. Then, in Game 2, Phil Hughes did his usual less than five innings work day, the bullpen imploded in the 8th inning (Joba Chamberlain) and the Yankee 3-6 hitters went 0-13 in a 5-2 loss. Game 3 was a horrendous 18-inning 3-2 loss where the bullpen was burned and the heart of the Yankee order went 0-28 with 12 strikeouts.

The Yanks just look uncomfortable in Oakland. They are tentative at the plate and don't get key hits. Their pitchers seem distracted. The A's have won 10 of their last 13 overall against New York, including seven straight at the Oakland Coliseum.

Tropicana Field has company in terms of horror houses of baseball for the Yankees. Oakland Coliseum has been added to the list.

By: Mike Lindsley, \"Mid-Day with Mike,\" 1-4, Yankee pre/post-game host on 104.5 ESPN Radio. Follow him on Twitter @MikeLSports.

A-Rod Clown Show Must End.
By: Mike Lindsley
Cheating and lying in Texas while using performance enhancing drugs while playing on the richest contract in baseball history. Cheating and lying through steroid use and coming out and admitting it, while causing a circus in New York and using teammates as pawns, only to in the end try and look like the innocent and sad sorry guy who would change his baseball and personal life if we all forgave him.

And then the involvement with Dr. Anthony Galea and his products. And then the cherry on the steroid sundae. Biogenesis and Tony Bosch and paying people close to the Miami-based PED clinic not to say anything about his involvement.

Enough is enough with Alex Rodriguez. The clown show must stop. The pre-Madonna must go away. It doesn't matter who makes A-Fraud go away first. It doesn't matter if A-Rod walks away or MLB suspends him for the Biogenesis involvement for 100 games, ultimately leading to the end of a joke of a career, or here is a suggestion.

How about the Yankees take care of A-Roid? He is their problem, after all. Phony Hal Steinbrenner and his punk brother Hank are disappointed in Rodriguez and Hal wants him to "act like a Yankee." How about A-Rod not being a Yank at all so you don't have to worry about it?

The Yankees created the problem. Actually, George Steinbrenner's idiot sons created the problem, by bringing back A-Rod after he opted out of that mega contract in 2007. So now, Hank and Hal can be like their Dad once and for all, and create the beginning of their own Yankee legacy as team owners.


The clown show must end.

By: Mike Lindsley, \"Mid-Day with Mike,\" 1-4, Yankee pre/post-game host on 104.5 ESPN Radio. Follow him on Twitter @MikeLSports.

2013 Needs To Be The End For Andy Pettitte and Yanks
By: Mike Lindsley
No one will ever forget the postseason wins, the bulldog mentality, the cap set down just above the eyebrows as the cutter dives in on righties and away from lefties. No one will forget saving the bacon in the Bronx time after time after time, nor will they forget outdueling John Smoltz in the 1996 World Series.

But this isn't 1996 anymore. Hell, it isn't 2009 anymore, either. Andy Pettitte and the Yankees need to be finished with one another after this year, once and for all.

The same movie has played again in 2013. It starts the same way each time, with Pettitte in great shape in the offseason at his Texas home, talking to his wife and kids about playing another year in the big leagues. Then he signs a one-year deal with the Yanks. Then he pitches a few times like it's 1996 again. And then he gets hurt, comes back, gets hit, gets hurt, comes back, gets hurt again and then the Yanks hope he is healthy for postseason play. And for what, one possible good start in the American League Division Series?

This is getting old. Look at the Cardinals, Giants, Reds, Rangers, Tigers and Nationals. All of those teams are built for the next seven to 10 years and are championship contenders in those years. Why? Deep starting pitching through the farm that isn't aging. Look also at the Rays, a team that during the long haul of a season doesn't advance as far as the Yanks, but give them trouble during the season because of active, young arms.

Pettitte is the last great Yankee arm from the farm. New York needs more, of course, and needs to rebuild the pitching staff through the minor leagues and smart free agent signings or trades in order to contend for a title for the next decade.

Pettitte's time in the Bronx has been wonderful. But that time is up.

The movie needs a new actor.

By: Mike Lindsley, \"Mid-Day with Mike,\" 1-4, Yankee pre/post-game host on 104.5 ESPN Radio. Follow him on Twitter @MikeLSports.

Let Phil Hughes Walk After 2013.
By: Mike Lindsley
After this season, the Yankees have a decision to make in terms of Phil Hughes, the guy once designated for pinstripe greatness and ace-type status. Hughes' contract (third year, arbitration eligible, one-year, $7.15 million) is up this year. Here are the three options for the Yanks as far as Hughes goes after 2013:
  1. Let him walk. Hughes will get paid somewhere and probably a lot of money just because the premium on pitching is so needed and high. Hughes as a back-end guy in the National League for the Pirates, Diamondbacks, Cubs or Marlins would be a great fit for him and a chance to revitalize his career without the fishbowl that is New York City.
  2. Sign him and start him deep in the rotation. Hughes will never be a #1, #2 or #3 guy. He might not be a #4 either. The Yanks could sign him and put him at #5 and pray every fifth day that he gives the team a chance to win.
  3. Sign him and make Hughes a reliever. Remember 2009? Hughes was Mariano Rivera's set-up guy by accident and the Yanks flourished. There was less pressure on Hughes, he seemed to like the role and his fastball never lost pop. Maybe the Yanks try and rediscover that.
The verdict: In the end, the Yanks should let him walk. Hughes isn't worth the headache or $50-$60 million over four years which he will likely command. Time to move on with another pitching prospect who never worked out in pinstripes.

By: Mike Lindsley, \"Mid-Day with Mike,\" 1-4, Yankee pre/post-game host on 104.5 ESPN Radio. Follow him on Twitter @MikeLSports.

Derek Jeter Will Never Be the Same.
By: Mike Lindsley
3,000 hits. Well over .300 batting average. The rings and the pennants and the October moments. Derek Jeter is a first ballot Hall of Famer and no one should doubt that. But Derek Jeter will never again be that Derek Jeter.

The injured ankle is a lot to come back from, even for Derek Jeter. Jeter said Opening Day was his return date. And it wasn't even close to the return date. And now we wait until at least late July for the return of the Yankee captain.

Derek Jeter will never again be THAT Derek Jeter because his feet are important to his game. A repaired and once broken ankle doesn't help. He needs both feet to move laterally and effectively at shortstop. He needs that left foot to both plant and drive the ball to mostly right field, a swing we have been so accustomed to since 1996.

Jeter also turns 39 in June. His body isn't what it was. And no matter what Jeter says, ANY injury is harder to come back from at 39 as opposed to 25.

Jeter was great. He may surprise us when he returns this year and beyond to finish his amazing Yankee career. But don't expect to see Jeter be the old Jeter consistently ever again.

By: Mike Lindsley, \"Mid-Day with Mike,\" 1-4, Yankee pre/post-game host on 104.5 ESPN Radio. Follow him on Twitter @MikeLSports.

Ichiro is First Ballot Material.
By: Mike Lindsley
Over 2,600 hits. A .322 lifetime batting average. More than 3,400 total bases. 450+ steals. 1,200+ runs scored. Over 600 RBI and over 100 home runs for a non-power player. Ichiro Suzuki is not a Hall of Famer. He is a first ballot Hall of Famer.

And the reason actually has nothing to do with numbers. The numbers above would qualify him to be in the discussion as a first ballot guy. But it is his pioneering of the game from Japan that puts him up a level to earn the label of a first ballot Hall of Famer. Look at the amount of Asian players in the game now. Hideo Nomo was one thing for pitchers. But Ichiro carried the torch in the early 2000's and paved the way for hitters who never really made it over to play Major League Baseball. Ichiro set the tone for decades in the Far East. Now, teams scout differently and put more finances in the Far East and general managers look for the next Japanese player to help their team. That didn't happen pre-Ichiro.

Ichiro has played the game with class, dignity and respect. Hopefully, the baseball writers return the favor by making him a first ballot Hall of Famer in Cooperstown. The guy deserves it.

By: Mike Lindsley, \"Mid-Day with Mike,\" 1-4, Yankee pre/post-game host on 104.5 ESPN Radio. Follow him on Twitter @MikeLSports.

Leadership Still Key For Yanks.
By: Mike Lindsley
Talk all day long about the 2013 replacement players in pinstripes. Talk about general manager Brian Cashman taking chances. Talk about the starting pitching being good enough in spots. Talk about whatever you'd like as the main reason for the Yankees' demise not quite happening just yet like some thought. The real talk is the leadership and presence of Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter and Andy Pettitte. As long as those three are in the Bronx, it starts and ends with that.

One of the big reasons why the Yankees are where they are is because guys like Vernon Wells, Lyle Overbay and Travis Hafner get into the clubhouse and don't want to fail in front of Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera, and now in front of Derek Jeter, who is the captain and back in the dugout watching games (which you know drives him crazy). These guys are Yankees. They are core Yankees. Hall of Fame Yankees. And they have rings. These three make everyone better from just being there, talking to players and having a presence that rubs off on others. Rivera, even more than that, is dominating at age 43. Players marvel at that and respect him. Think Michael Jordan making the 1990's Chicago Bulls six-time champions. It is the same thing.

Obviously, these three legends are not 30 anymore and in their absolute prime (Rivera might be challenging that), but them being around the team and playing at a high enough level alone makes the Yankees' demise a tad premature. When Mo, DJ and Pettitte are officially gone and their skills completely diminished on a baseball field, however, it will be one scary future in the Bronx.

By: Mike Lindsley, \"Mid-Day with Mike,\" 1-4, Yankee pre/post-game host on 104.5 ESPN Radio. Follow him on Twitter @MikeLSports.

Yanks' Leadership is Slowly Dwindling.
By: Mike Lindsley
Bernie Williams and Jorge Posada, two core Yankee players from the Joe Torre era, are long gone. Mariano Rivera, another quiet leader by example, is retiring after this season. Andy Pettitte is near the end. And the Yankee captain, Derek Jeter, won't be back in the lineup until who knows when and is nearing 40. Leadership used to be a huge piece of the Yankees' winning puzzle. That leadership is dwindling away.

Some players lead by example and don't have to say much. Some players are more vocal but do it behind the scenes. Some players talk the right way to the media as the team leader and representative. Jeter, for example, has done all three well but mostly the first two to perfection. If Robinson Cano signs a big deal, he could lead the team, but we have not seen any signs of him being a leader up to this point. CC Sabathia is a quiet leader, but not an original Yank. Curtis Granderson might not even be in the Bronx next year. Brett Gardner? Uh, no. Mark Teixeira? Not likely. Ivan Nova? No way.

Winning ballgames cures everything. When you win, no one worries about chemistry or leadership or anything else. But when you go through losing streaks and tough times, those things come up a lot and leaders are needed more than ever. The Yankees are coming to the point where leadership will be lacking and that is a scary thought.

By: Mike Lindsley, \"Mid-Day with Mike,\" 1-4, Yankee pre/post-game host on 104.5 ESPN Radio. Follow him on Twitter @MikeLSports.

Farm Pitching.
By: Mike Lindsley
Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain and Ian Kennedy never panned out. Now, the best in the Yankee farm system is Manny Banuelos, who is out for the minor league year with Tommy John surgery and who knows if Dellin Betances will ever emerge like the Yanks said he would two years ago. The Mets on the other hand...They don't have the rings and pennants and division titles or the fan base like the Yankees do, but strictly speaking about the pitchers in the farm system, they have what the Yanks need. Matt Harvey is a stud and Zach Wheeler (acquired in the Carlos Beltran deal) is coming through the minor leagues now and appears to be the real deal thanks to his mid-90s fastball, plus curve and big league-ready changeup. The Met phenoms are what Banuelos from the left side and Betances from the right side were hyped to be two years ago and are supposed to be now.

The Yankees haven't developed a farm pitcher since Andy Pettitte. They sign and trade and trade and sign. But don't develop. Championships are won with farm system pitching in today's baseball age. Ask the Giants, not the Yankees.

By: Mike Lindsley, \"Mid-Day with Mike,\" 1-4, Yankee pre/post-game host on 104.5 ESPN Radio. Follow him on Twitter @MikeLSports.

How much is Robinson Cano worth?
By: Mike Lindsley
Brian Kenny of MLB Network recently suggested that Robinson Cano should get $252 million after this year because he is worth seven wins per season in the stupid category of \"Wins Above Replacement.\" This category is almost as stupid as giving Carl Pavano $40 million over four years. Why? Seven wins in the regular season means nothing in the postseason if you don't hit and lead, which Cano has yet to do either.

So that brings us to how much Cano is worth after this season, his free agent year. He is a clear five-tool player with talent so the Yanks do want to keep him and rightfully so, and Robbie dumped agent Scott Boras for Jay-Z, so the deal should be a little easier to close for Hank and Hal (if they even remember they are running the team) and Brian Cashman.

10-years is too long of a deal. Five years is too short. Think seven years and $20 million per season. Pitchers like Justin Verlander are getting that kind of money, but they DO make a difference. Until Cano makes a difference in October and leads the team (which he probably never will because it isn't in his DNA), he is worth more than $15 million annually, but not quite worth Albert Pujols money.

By: Mike Lindsley, 1-4 daily host and Yankee pre/post game host on 104.5 The Team. Follow him on Twitter @MikeLSports.

2013 New York Yankees preview.
By: Mike Lindsley
The Yankees are the same, yet so different from last year. No Nick Swisher. No Raul Ibanez. No Russell Martin. Enter Kevin Youkilis and some baseball nomads.

Other than that, they look the same. The difference? They aren't healthy, not by a long shot. There are injuries or holes at first base, center field, third base and catcher. The pitching staff is pretty much the same. Here is a breakdown of the Bronx Bombers (using that term lightly, of course).

Greatest strength: Pitching staff.

Don't laugh. This team is a mess offensively. And the bullpen is a question if for nothing but Mariano Rivera coming back from a torn ACL and turning 43. At least the Yanks can trot out five starters who give them a chance to win with David Phelps making spots starts if need be.

Greatest weakness: Age and injuries.

Mark Teixeira (torn tendon), Curtis Granderson (forearm), Derek Jeter (ankle), Alex Rodriguez (everything) and whoever is next. This team is so beat up and all of the players mentioned are a year older. Even the general manager went down in the offseason skydiving for war veterans. It will be a challenge to keep the roster together at any time this season.

Most important player: Robinson Cano

Too easy of a choice. With Jeter’s lingering ankle injury and the injuries to Tex and Granderson, Cano must produce. He is also in a contract year and will be the face of the franchise if he isn’t already. Cano went back to some of his old habits in the postseason last year, however, and has to get his focus back and play harder, plus come up with big hits in October to get the big paycheck. The Yanks need him now more than ever.

Most important pitcher: Ivan Nova

We already know what CC Sabathia will do if healthy (bulldog, innings eater, stop losing streaks, etc) and what Andy Pettitte will do (get hurt by July, come back in September, pitch average in October and contemplate another year). Phil Hughes will never materialize. Hiroki Kuroda had a nice 2012 and should be fine. The wild card is the all-of-a-sudden not-so-confident Nova. He won 16 games in 2011 and fell on his face in 2012 and barely stayed in the rotation. He is the absolute key to this staff because he is young and brings so many different pitches to the plate against all types of hitters.

Key part of the schedule: August 9-22.

The Yanks play three against Detroit, three against the Angels and three at Boston with a day off and then a three-game homestand with Toronto. This may very well be the make-it or break-it time in the schedule and will set-up September and a playoff run. Plus, it will show if the Yanks are legit or not.

Key six-pack: Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson, Mariano Rivera and CC Sabathia.

By late May, the Yanks need these six healthy and playing well. If not, things will get ugly very quickly.

Projected record and finish: 92-70. AL East champs. ALDS first round loss.

Yea, the Blue Jays made moves. The Rays have pitching. Buck's boys in Baltimore are somewhat back. But Boston is still way down. Toronto has to prove it. Tampa Bay has no offense. And Baltimore can’t do what they did last year again, can they? This division is still New York’s to lose. And the Yankees still have enough talent and offense to win games in the regular season and beat #4 and #5 rotation pitchers. The problem is the postseason, where they are still nowhere near built for a run or a ring.

Breaking Down the Rotation.
By: Mike Lindsley
Ok, so we know that the Yankees pitching staff (and most of the team for that matter) will look pretty similar to 2012. That isn’t necessarily a good thing. Below is the 1-5 rotation and the upside and downside to each pitcher this season, along with who is in line to join the staff should an injury happen or surprising progress take place.

1. CC Sabathia.

Upside: CC wants the ball. He stops losing streaks. He eats innings. He saves bullpens. He is the horse of this rotation and has pitched through postseasons, which in New York, is literally priceless. You could make the argument that CC has been the best big game pitcher in MLB since 2008 and certainly the most important ace to a respective team in all of baseball as well.

Downside: Weight and work. When does Sabathia finally crumble due to his frame and amount of work? While he does eat innings and save bullpens as mentioned above, you feel every year that his arm is going to snap off or his big body will cause injury. Is 2013 the year where he breaks down or starts to break down?

2. Hiroki Kuroda.

Upside: Kuroda proved he could pitch in the AL East and helped erase the unknown question mark that was the Yanks staff going into 2012. So the proof is there.

Downside: Teams may have figured him out. Elite hitters (Major League hitters for that matter) coupled with the amount of video are cause for concern that Kuroda won’t be able to give the Yanks 16 wins and nearly 220 innings pitched from a year ago.

3. Andy Pettitte.

Upside: The Yankee veteran on this team and one of the greatest Yankee arms of all-time keeps the staff steady and is the lefty they need. He works with the youngsters and is another guy who wants the ball in big spots and isn’t afraid of failure. He also attacks people as opposed to #4 to come.

Downside: The usual Pettitte injury, wait for him to come back, and then not be himself by October. This has happened the last two years. Frankly, the Yanks should have let him walk after 2012. Is it really worth $12 million to get 4-12 wins? Eventually, time is going to be up for #46 who turns 41 in June.

4. Phil Hughes.

Upside: He is still just 26 and has an arsenal of pitches. He is a power guy who’s fastball, when it is on, can set-up one of the most devastating curve balls in the game.

Downside: How long can you wait for Hughes to be a big part of the future in the Bronx? The Yanks have developed him the right way for the most part, now it is time for “In Phil We Trust” to come to fruition. That starts with Hughes attacking hitters and not nibbling around the strike zone.

5. Ivan Nova.

Upside: Nova (PP believes he will beat out David Phelps for the 5 spot) won 16 games in 2011 and is only 26 years old, like Hughes. He throws four pitches and brings a unique style to the staff from the right side. His down year in 2012 after success the prior season is part of the growing pains in the big leagues. The problem with that is you aren’t allowed growing pains when you wear a New York Yankees uniform.

Downside: Confidence. It was enough that Nova regressed from 16 wins to 12 and his ERA ballooned from 3.70 to 5.02 from 2011 to 2012. But Nova’s confidence was shot in the early going and he never recovered. He has to get his mind right in Spring Training.

Next in line:

1. David Phelps.

Upside: 26 years old and a utility arm you can use in the rotation and bullpen who throws strikes early in the count.

Downside: Hasn’t developed enough for the Yanks to this point.

2. Michael Pineda.

Upside: Throws 97+. Just 24 years old. Fastball-slider combo has the potential to be lethal.

Downside: He is recovering from a torn labrum and appears to be damaged goods. This was Brian Cashman’s worst trade in years, acquiring Pineda from Seattle for top prospect Jesus Montero on January 23, 2012 (Hector Noesi was shipped to the West Coast as well and could have been used as trade bait in another deal). The Yanks don’t expect much from him in 2013.

The Yankees’ 5 Burning Spring Training Questions.
By: Mike Lindsley
1. How will Derek Jeter (ankle) and Mariano Rivera (torn ACL) return from injuries?

They are a huge part of this team obviously, a team that is pretty much the same club as last year. The Yanks are hoping for production from both Core Four guys considering the make-up of this team is still built around DJ and Mo (for good and bad reasons). The Yankee bullpen must get another solid year out of Rivera because it isn’t as deep as last year or the year before and doesn’t have Rafael Soriano to fill-in or spot close. Jeter must hit in key spots because the Yankees are a one dimensional, home run-hitting team until they prove otherwise.

2. Who plays center field?

Curtis Granderson has been there and Brett Gardner returns, the normal left fielder. But the Yankees are exploring their options in center because of Granderson’s weaker arm and declining fielding ability. Both players are fast and can close gaps quickly. Granderson turns 32 on March 16 while Gardner doesn’t turn 30 until August 24. Does that age comparison of two years make more of a difference than pure skill set and potential? Only Yankee brass has the answer.

3. How much production will the team get from Kevin Youkilis?

The former Red Sox player and hated man is now the third baseman for the Yanks while Alex Rodriguez rehabs from hip surgery, steroid use, more steroid use, a broken down body, more steroid use and a more broken down body. How much can Youk produce for the Bombers? Expect the 33-year old to perform similarly to 2012 with a little less production. Let’s count on a .275 batting average, 15 home runs, 40 RBI and slightly above average glove work at the hot corner. He has shown the ability to hit the other way at times, which would benefit him this season thanks to the short right field porch in Yankee Stadium.

4. Who is catching?

This is perhaps the weakest link on the Yankee roster. No more Russell Martin (signed with Pittsburgh for way too much money anyway). The days of Jorge Posada are long gone (Did you appreciate him enough when he was in pinstripes?). And Yogi Berra probably cannot catch. So who is the guy? Francisco Cervelli, Austin Romine and Chris Stewart will battle it out for the starting role. But the reality is these guys are all platoon players and not good enough to start on a regular basis. Expect Joe Girardi to split time with all three with Cervelli and Stewart getting the most time with Romine (good defense, poor offense, especially hitting off-speed stuff) grooming underneath the others with a shot at the starting role in 2014.

5. What’s next for Cano?

This is the biggest year in pinstripes for the Yankee second baseman. He is signed through 2013 but that is it. Cano regressed in the postseason by not hitting in the clutch, showed some of his lazy tactics again out of the batter’s box and had 24 less RBI in 2012 than 2011. The Yankees have a lot of options. 2013 will set-up a three-year deal, a long-term deal or maybe the Yanks even trade him halfway through the season to replenish the farm system which is overrated and down when compared to over half of Major League Baseball teams.

Mike Lindsley’s Top 5 Reasons to Hate Alex Rodriguez Right Now.
By: Mike Lindsley
1. He lied again.

So A-Rod not only took steroids back in the day and announced it with the Yankees, but he also later said he was all done with it, done with the performance enhancing drugs that helped him hit all of those home runs and drive in all of those runs. Not the case. BALCO East, or Biogenesis or whatever you want to call it has links to A-Rod getting PED’s and taking steroids this whole time. What a liar and a cheater and a fraud.

2. Even worse teammate.

Everyone, even Derek Jeter, defended the guy. They defended him and understood that people can make mistakes. If I am a Yankee and I know I am playing clean and have played clean, I wouldn’t even look A-Rod in the eye.

3. Can’t stay healthy.

Due the steroid use and age, A-Rod needed hip surgery that may keep him out the entire 2013 season. So not only did he lie and cheat again, he cannot even stay healthy through it all to help the team win. This is called a waste of money.

4. Money owed.

This is why baseball contracts, which are guaranteed no matter what, are the worst in sports. How can anyone justify Alex Rodriguez not only getting paid what he does, but getting paid $130 million more on his current deal while cheating, not producing AND HELLO, NOT EVEN PLAYING??!?!?!!?!?!?? His contract is the worst in sports. You have to blame the Yanks the most, however, because they could have been out of the first contract in 2007 when Rodriguez opted out during the World Series (this was before A-Rod admitted to steroid use for a three-year period of time and before he carried the Yanks in the 2009 World Series, but the contract was still insane and the Yanks would have been better off long-term as a team without Rodriguez).

5. Bad example.

For kids and baseball and records and everything else, Alex Rodriguez is a terrible example. Here is a guy who we are supposed to remember as a five-tool, all-world baseball player who was an all-time great and attracted the American and Latino masses. Now we see needles and drugs, cheat and scam, drama and disaster whenever his face comes on TV or any medium or his name comes up in any discussion. It is amazing to think it has come to this for a baseball player who didn’t even need the steroids to begin with. The guy is an embarrassment to the Yankee uniform, an embarrassment to the game of baseball and is a total disgrace.

The Best Possible A-Rod Scenario.
By: Mike Lindsley
Forget for a second, even though it is hard to do, about the years remaining and the money remaining on one Alex Rodriguez’s contract. Five years. $130+ million. Yea, scary and hard NOT to think about. But the Yankees make enough money to cover up plenty of mistakes, and so believe it or not, no matter what the years and dollars say, this is the best possible scenario: to have A-Rod NOT PLAY at all for the Yankees in 2013.

The beautiful thing? It may actually happen.

General manager Brian Cashman recently went on ESPN Radio 98.7 in New York City and told Michael Kay and Don La Greca that there is “a chance” that A-Rod’s hip surgery could keep him out of the entire 2013 season. This is amazing news for the Yankees and for Yankee fans and for the general make-up and productivity of the team.

A-Rod is a lightning rod in the clubhouse and around the media. He is full of drama and headlines you don't want. And there has to be a little of that jealous of Jeter stuff still lingering. But mostly, the guy is completely and utterly DONE as a ballplayer. He can barely run. He can barely field his position on a day-to-day basis. He can barely get the ball to the outfield thanks to his broken down, steroid-ridden body.

The money and years left on his contract are asinine and astronomical and frustrating all at the same time. But don’t worry about that. Worry about the team being good. They are not as good with Rodriguez in there. He doesn’t move people over. He doesn’t get people in. Hell, he cannot even hit home runs, which is the only thing he used to be able to do. And that hurts considering that A-Rod always hits somewhere in the middle of the lineup. So, Who cares if the Yanks pay him not to play if it is better for the team?!!?!?? “Not I, says the Captain.” Well, Jeter would probably say that.

The Yankees are always patient and savvy and have a veteran presence when they win. But when they lose? Oh, how old the pinstripes are and how slow the team is. Well, the latter is now actually starting to come to fruition. Jeter (coming off of foot surgery), Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera (coming off of ACL injury), Mark Teixeira and Ichiro are all a year older. When does C.C. Sabathia start breaking down? A-Rod being in there and NOT producing just adds to the age thing.

So, if A-Rod misses the whole season, this is a good thing. You take out a selfish player who doesn’t produce and is a distraction for the betterment of the team. Sure, the Steinbrenner family isn’t paying him to actually play and produce, or not produce, but they are paying for something else.

The Steinbrenner family riches are, in the end, indirectly paying for the ballclub to be better.

What the Yankees Batting Order Should Be.
By: Mike Lindsley
The Yanks said good-bye to Nick Swisher and Russell Martin in the off-season, may lose Alex Rodriguez for the whole season due to hip surgery, will figure out if Kevin Youkilis fits well into pinstripes and if Curtis Granderson can do anything besides hit home runs. Then there is Derek Jeter, Robinson Cano, the return of Brett Gardner, Mark Teixeira and Ichiro. Here is an early look at the 2013 Yankee lineup:
  1. Derek Jeter (SS)
  2. Ichiro (RF)
  3. Curtis Granderson (CF)
  4. Robinson Cano (2B)
  5. Mark Teixeira (1B)
  6. Kevin Youkilis (3B)
  7. Eduardo Nunez (DH)
  8. Chris Stewart-Francisco Cervelli-Austin Romine (C)
  9. Brett Gardner (LF)
Against right-handed pitching, just switch Jeter and Ichiro around. The key will be the 6-9 spots in the order. Can they manufacture runs or get on base for Jeter and Ichiro to hit them in? After all, last year we learned that home runs are sexy and fun in the regular season, but you need to do more to score runs in the postseason. Jeter and Ichiro are the only guys on the team who have the offensive skill set to score runs by singling, getting sacrifice flies, hitting the occasional home run and GULP, bunting people over or in on a squeeze play.

If Alex Rodriguez comes back, plug him into the 7-hole as a DH. $25 million to DH. Incredible.

The key to this offense is obviously Robinson Cano. He must produce runs from April through October if the Yankees are to win another World Series. He had a dreadful 2013 postseason and seemed to drift away mentally and not hustle again. If Cano performs like that again this October, should the Yanks make it to postseason play, New York will have to think long and hard about one of those mega contracts for the star infielder.

Spring Training isn't that far away. But the Yankees doing anything differently offensively than last year seems like an eternity away.

By: Mike Lindsley
Going into 2013, the Yankees look this way. They have a third baseman who is injured again and won't be able to hit in the clutch when he returns. His replacement is another baseball nomad who is overpaid and overrated and had his day five years ago for a bitter rival. There is no productive catcher. The pitching is a question mark. The team is old and slow and lacks speed. The team lacks depth on the bench. They are one dimensional.

Sound familiar? 2013 will be a lot like 2012 in the Bronx.

Things will be exciting at times, sure. The Yankees will hit a lot of home runs. They have stars. Derek Jeter will get more hits in his quest for 4,000 career. CC Sabathia will save the day a few times and the now-Core 3 will try and put together one more magical run. The Yankees and Mets will play silly Subway Series games that the media and fans go bonkers for. The Red Sox will come in for the usual rivalry games. And Joe Girardi will be on the hot seat for some reason or another.

But let's look at this seriously. The Yankees don't have the horses or the pieces or the anything to win a championship. And that is what it's about in New York. Division titles are sweet. Pennants are sweeter. World Series titles are the sweetest.

The Yankees didn't have a good off-season. They signed Kevin Youkilis to replace A-Rod. Youk is what the Yanks already are: slow, old, overrated and overpaid. There is no room for one more. The Ichiro one-year deal makes sense but Ichiro brings a different dynamic than most players the last 20 years so he almost doesn't count (and he is getting up there in age). Andy Pettitte is back for more staredowns from the mound, but another injury and comeback and soap opera are sure to follow. Ivan Nova seems to have regressed and Phil Hughes is the ultimate enigma. There was no addition to the bullpen that lost Rafael Soriano. The catcher spot? Good luck.

This team is good enough to win the division. Or good enough to claim the Wild Card spot or the handout Wild Card spot. But there is no reason to believe this team is any different than last year.

The only way that happens is if New York learns how to hit with two outs or Curtis Granderson can hit the ball the other way or if Ivan Nova and Phil Hughes attack and finish hitters. Or if they magically develop a farm system player (GULP) and he instantly makes something happen in the rotation or if Michael Pineda comes back and throws lightning and makes Brian Cashman look somewhat smart for trading the best prospect in the organization (Jesus Montero) for an average number two pitcher. Or if the average age gets a little younger than 36.5.

Until then, 2013 is going to look a lot like 2012.

Same Old Yanks.
By: Mike Lindsley
Before Yankee fans get bent out of shape about an article that slams the Yanks (this is more realism, however, than anything), it is important to note that it is fully known that New York won the World Series in 2009 and reached the American League Championship Series this past season and makes the playoffs every year. However...

This is more about how the team is built. The average age of the Yanks is 35.6. The third baseman is out 4-6 months and is due $114 million over the next five years NOT including incentives. Right field is weak. There is no one to play catcher. All they do is hit home runs. And the pitching staff, which includes two up and down guys (Ivan Nova and Phil Hughes) and a 40-year old Andy Pettitte, is still a monster question mark long term. Oh, and when does CC Sabathia break down and Huroki Kuroda underachieve?

Ah the Yanks. Blessed with more money than baseball Gods can create. Now they have offered Kevin Youkilis (puke in mouth now) a one-year deal for $12 million dollars to replace A-Rod for the time being. Yep, $12 million. Isn't Wade Boggs around instead?

I understand the national media's perspective on New York and Yankee haters' opinions. They are old and slow when they lose but gritty, tough and patient when they win. But right now, it is more of the former. And it's not even close.

See this is the same old Yankees. They haven't groomed a farm arm since the previously mentioned Pettitte. They keep going back to the free agent well where old, crusty has-beens await a big contract to finish out their career and sit back to enjoy retirement. And those players know they will get it, because the Yankees overpay and cannot build a team anymore. This is the pinstripe system now, and Hank and Hal seem to be ok with it.

Remember Gene Michael? Remember how he wouldn't trade Bernie Williams or Derek Jeter or Mariano Rivera or Andy Pettitte? Remember how the team was built around core farm system players and then the right pieces through the free agent market and big dollars? It isn't this way anymore. Yet the rest of baseball is doing it that way. The Giants, for example, are doing it that way and won the World Series with free agents and trades built around a farm system pitching staff and National League MVP Buster Posey.

The Yankees may win a World Series here and there, but they aren't setting themselves up for runs like the Cardinals or Giants (or even teams who haven't won like the Nats). The Yanks won it all in 2009 with A-Rod carrying them and Sabathia pitching and Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsusi grinding out at-bats, which is great news in the Bronx. But it isn't the Giants' run in 2010 and 2012 or the Cardinals' run since 2006.

Those are TEAMS. The Yanks are an old, has-been, overpaid, broken down collection.

And in that collection there is certainly no place for Kevin Youkilis.

Andy Pettitte, Again?
By: Mike Lindsley
How many times can you do the exact same thing? You can pay rent every month. You can ride a bike every day in the Summer time. You can tie your shoes over and over and over again. You can eat pizza every Friday night. You can brush your teeth every day and get dressed every day. You can say good-bye to family members every morning on your way out for work. Christmas happens every year. So does the New Year and July 4 and Memorial Day and well, you get the point.

And, apparently, you can sign Andy Pettitte to one-year deals if you're the New York Yankees. Over and over and over and over and over and over again.

Pettitte will be 41 years old in June, 2013. The Yankees need to get younger and faster and better. You don't do it by signing a 41-year old pitcher who is coming off of a broken fibula, 5-4 2012 season, even if he is a member of the Heroic Core Four.

See, these one-year deals are getting as old as Pettitte. It is the same thing every year. Pettitte has no idea if he wants to pitch again after the season. He then gets verification from his wife and kids if they are ok with him playing again. Plus he has to figure out if he has “the drive” again. And then the Yankees overpay him and sign him to a one-year deal. And then he gets injured in some capacity, comes back for the stretch run, and then we do it all over again. It's old. It's boring. It's a waste of time.

While some would think there isn't anything else out there, maybe the Yankees haven't looked hard enough. Maybe they haven't scouted hard enough to find another Hiroki Kuroda. Surely they haven't groomed enough starting pitchers over the years because none of them are healthy or ready. A good idea might be to pass the torch to David Phelps just by default to see what the youngster has. At least with Phil Hughes, Ivan Nova and David Phelps the Yankees are younger. That problem is solved. The other problems of production and winning games is not solved, but certainly both are fixable considering what upside we have seen at times from all three.

Yankee fans understand the importance of Pettitte over the years. It isn't about that. It isn't about three Game 2 wins during the 2009 World Series run or beating John Smoltz head-to-head in Game 5 of the 1996 World Series. It isn't about the .633 winning percentage or the 245 career wins or the 2,320 career strikeouts. It isn't about the cutter into right-handers and away from lefties. It isn't about the stare to home plate. It isn't about that bulldog mentality or the pickoff move to first base. It isn't about being a borderline Hall of Famer and the second greatest lefty in Yankee history.

It's about what's best for the Yankees. And because they need to get young and stop living in the past, it is about the team first and the future, not trying to make it like it is 1996, 1998, 2000 or 2003 all over again with these silly Andy Pettitte one-year deals.

What's Next For A-Rod?
By: Mike Lindsley
Two options.

The Yankees keep him and deal with his broken-down body and lousy play and pre-Madonna acts or they cut Rodriguez and pay for him to NOT play on the team.

Option two is the best but not likely. From what Brian Cashman is saying, the general manager of the Yanks, New York is committed to the aging star and Alex Rodriguez is committed to contributing and helping the Yanks get back to the World Series.

The problem is both sides are in denial. A-Rod is done. Shot. Toast. Cooked. Never again will he be a productive player. And he is old. And his body is breaking down more and more from the needle. Both sides know it, they just don't talk about it. They probably don't even talk about it with each other. And the reason for that is simple, because A-Rod has always gotten a free pass for just about everything, and plenty of freebies from the New York Yankees, the team that has paid him far too much money and delivered him an opportunity to finally win a ring.

What should happen is that both sides understand 30 million times over again that this was never going to work in the first place. It was never going to work because A-Rod always wants more. He wants more fame, more money, more women, more everything. He proved it in 2007 by opting out of a 10-year deal worth $250 million during the World Series so he could get a $300 million deal with incentives from the Yankees who had no problem running to his feet, kissing his toes, handing him half the franchise and walking away happy about it.

If you're a Yankee fan and hoping that the Marlins recent fire sale to Toronto made room for Rodriguez in Florida and that this opens the door for a trade, good luck. A-Rod is a nobody in Miami, and he knows it. Sure, he can speak some solid Spanish with the belly dancers and strippers, but Miami is not a baseball town, even if it is one of his three homes. New York, however, is a baseball town. It might be the strongest baseball town of all. The new Yankee Stadium, despite NOT being the old one with the ghosts and the history and the real fans, is still superior to the fish tank aquarium in Miami. A-Rod would be a goldfish there at best as opposed to a beta or small catfish in New York City.

So, make no mistake about it. A-Rod will be a Yankee until the end of his baseball time. He will miss fastballs and not be able to make it to first and limp around 3rd base. He will be a hole in the lineup bigger than the Grand Canyon and continue to fail in October. Off the field, he will make news that isn't all good and be a lightning rod for reporters and fans, both home and away. He will continue to talk during post games about getting better and helping the team and blah, blah. This will continue unless one thing happens.

The Yanks cut him and pay him. Don't hold your breath.

Mo Returns.
By: Mike Lindsley
Mariano Rivera continues rehabilitation on his torn ACL from when he was shagging fly balls in the outfield in Kansas City during the 2012 season. In the meantime, we can already make his Hall of Fame plaque in Cooperstown for election in say...well who knows? Why don't we know? Because Mariano Rivera may not retire anytime soon after his announcement that he will return to the Bronx for another season in 2013. Here are three reasons why believes Rivera decided to come back.

1. The competitor.

Mariano loves the game. The game loves him and so do the fans. And most of all, #42 loves to compete and loves the thrill of running out of that bullpen door to shut the door on the opposing team. You know he wants to get after it one more time and win another championship and add to those 608 saves and add to that career .70 postseason ERA.

2. Soriano opt-out.

Rivera's replacement last year and the 2011 set-up man Rafael Soriano has already opted out of his contract and will test the market. If Rivera is ready to go, there is no way in hell the Yankees give the closing role back to Soriano, not just because Mariano Rivera is Mariano Rivera, but because Rafael Soriano is trying to get more money from MLB teams than a team that can pay players and closers the most money in baseball, the New York Yankees. Why Soriano would leave that money on the table AND not fight for that closer's spot is beyond comprehension. It shows you the difference between Rivera and Soriano as competitors and Yankees.

3. This can't be the end.

Mariano Rivera doesn't want his last baseball image to be getting carted off the field with a torn ACL. He wants it to be on the field, competing hard and striking people out with that cutter he has baffled hitters with and broken bats with since 1996. Even if the Yanks don't win a championship in 2013, Rivera will be on the field trying for it as opposed to sitting on the couch. And all Yankee and baseball fans will remember that more than the ACL injury, which is just how the Yanks legend wants it.

Be Careful With Cano.
By: Mike Lindsley
He is talented. He is five-tool. He is one of the top five all-around players in baseball. His smile is perfect. His glove is flawless. His arm is strong. Teammates seem to love him. Fans really seem to love him. Former players say \"best hands in the game since Rod Carew.\"

But it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter for two reasons. One, because Robinson Cano seems like he doesn't care that much about playing the game. Two, because Robinson Cano couldn't hit a lick in October, 2012. Five or seven more big hits might have sent the Yanks to the World Series the way their pitching staff and bullpen came together. John Jay doesn't seem to have issues hitting. Austin Jackson, the Yanks farmhand in Detroit, doesn't seem to have an issue. But Cano does.

Nick Swisher and A-Rod didn't either. But it is different with Cano. It is different because Robinson Cano is the best player on the Yanks. He was supposed to take the team over. He was supposed to lead and take over with Derek Jeter on crutches and preparing for ankle surgery. He was supposed to make-up for Swisher, Curtis Granderson and A-Rod.

But instead, Cano went 3-40 in the playoffs. No big hits. 0.75 batting average in the playoffs. 0.53 average against the Detroit Tigers in the American League Championship Series. A botched double play. And not a care in the world.

And so now the Yankees have a decision to make. The Yanks have a team option for him for the 2013 season on his five-year, $44 million contract which is up after this year. What do you do with him now and after 2013? How many years? How many dollars? How much trust do you put into a five-tool player who hits in the regular season and not the postseason? How much trust do you put in a player whose talents are through the roof but the effort and clutch hitting are through the basement?

The answer should be simple. A four-year deal with a TEAM option for a fifth after management picks-up the 2013 option. Put in clauses and incentives. Put in a \"work harder\" clause that states more than five turtle runs to first takes away money. If he wins two rings, pay him a bonus. If he wins a batting title, give him a car. Do something to motivate RC. Hell, maybe bring Larry Bowa back to slap him across the face a few times.

If Cano and his agent Scott Boras want more than four years with a team option, which they most likely will, don't pay him. Let Cano test the market. Let him walk. New York cannot afford another A-Rod situation in the six to 10-year window of an awful contract somewhere in the Carl Crawford range or Albert Pujols range or A-Rod range.

One thing is for sure. The Yanks were still four wins away from the World Series and their 41st American League pennant. At the same time, the Yankees need to build a team again in order to reach the top of the baseball mountain they are so accustomed to.

And if Cano wants to be a part of it, he needs to start trying harder and hitting in the clutch in October.

Yankees-Tigers ALCS preview.
By: Mike Lindsley
The two teams with the best uniforms in baseball square off in the American League Championship Series for the right to go to the World Series. The Yanks haven't been to the Fall Classic since they beat in the Phillies in six games in 2009. Meanwhile, Detroit is looking to return for the first time since 2006 when it lost to St. Louis. Here is a breakdown of what should be a wonderful series:

Why the Yankees will win: Jeter, Ichiro and starting pitching.

You need a team to win any team sport. But look at the big time performances by Derek Jeter and Ichiro in the ALDS against Baltimore. Jeter had 8 hits, 2 RBI and a .364 batting average and played a magnificent shortstop for all games but one. Ichiro was a ninja the whole series and provided a spark in the field, on the bases and at the plate with key hits, including his RBI double early in Game 5. In the meantime, the starting pitching has come together and for the first time in a long time, the Yanks have a staff that can match the Tigers' mighty arms with CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte, Hiroki Kuroda and Phil Hughes.

Why the Tigers will win: Best pitcher and best hitter.

Justin Verlander is nearly unhittable and has about six pitches. He is the best pitcher in baseball, arguably, this time of year. Miguel Cabrera is the best hitter in the game and proved as much this year by winning baseball's Triple Crown. Plus, he hits in the clutch time and again. These two by themselves are a handful and can overwhelm any team, including the Yanks.

Yankee x-factor: Robinson Cano and Mark Teixeira

If the Yanks don't hit with runners in scoring position, forget about it. The only reason why the Yankees beat the Orioles is because Baltimore couldn't drive people in either. Alex Rodriguez is a non-factor, as is Nick Swisher. Curtis Granderson has done nothing other than the Game Five homer over Baltimore. It is up to Cano and Tex to do the heavy lifting with the likes of Jeter and Ichiro on base or this one could get ugly in a hurry for New York.

Tiger X-factors: Doug Fister and Jose Valverde

Fister starts the series in Game One and provides the pitching depth after Justin Verlander. He throws hard, moves the ball around and can go deep into games. He is important for Detroit. Valverde, the often-unreliable closer, has been known to blow games. If the Tigers have a one-run lead in any game, the spotlight shines on Jose as an x-factor who has to come through for Motown.

The pick: Tigers in 6

The starting pitching is too deep and the middle-of-the-order guys, Prince Fielder and Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera, will come through in the clutch more than the Yankee middle-of-the-order and send Detroit to the Fall Classic to face the Giants or Cardinals.

What the Postseason Order Should Be.
By: Mike Lindsley
October is knocking. What will the batting order look like for the Yankees? How will Joe Girardi maneuver his players and bench? Who knows, but this is what it should look like (let's assume Mark Teixeira is back).

1-Derek Jeter-SS- The captain has been the MVP of the team this season in a renaissance year at age 38. He has started innings with momentum-type hits, driven people in and continues to lead this team. The top spot is his. The only way he hits second in October is if a righty pitcher is in there, and then Joe Girardi can flip DJ and Ichiro.

2-Ichiro-LF- He should help the Yanks in the postseason because he is a situational player and hitter. He can slap the ball anywhere, bunt and get sacrifice fly balls. Ichiro can help manufacture runs, something the Yanks haven't done consistently in the postseason since the Joe Torre era.

3-Nick Swisher-RF-The Yanks need the always-happy Swisher big time in the playoffs. His ability to hit from both sides of the plate presents match-up problems. Can he hit in October this time around?

4-Robinson Cano-2B- The best player on the team by far. Hits for average and power. Cano's RBI production is an enormous element in a deep postseason run considering New York has yet to see consistent run production off the bats of Mark Teixeira, Nick Swisher and A-Rod since each came over as Yankees.

5-Alex Rodriguez-3B-Don't expect much from A-Rod. He can barely get his bat around and his power is diminished. The worst contract in baseball.

6-Mark Teixeira-1B-Will he be healthy? If he is, Tex needs to get into hitter's counts instead of digging himself into holes by swinging at trash away from the strike zone. That should help him have an improved postseason.

7-Curtis Granderson-CF--A 40-home run guy hitting this low? Absolutely. Granderson's production against lefties has gone down the last few months and his average isn't good enough to hit third. His clutch hitting has been mediocre since July.

8-Russell Martin-C-Every so often, Martin has a big game. He is 8th because he doesn't do it consistently and is aging. His defense behind the plate, however, is vital.

9-Raul Ibanez/Eric Chavez- DH- Two unsung heroes this year on the Yanks (in sports terms of course). Ibanez has been through the postseason baseball wars before (in sports terms, again, of course) and Chavez, like Ibanez, wants to make one more run at a ring. Either of these guys should be good enough in this spot all October. In the field, Chavez should play over A-Rod at least once a series.

How to Fix the Yanks.
By: Mike Lindsley
The Yankees will either barely make the playoffs or be one of the biggest choke artists in recent times after having a 10 ½ game AL East lead weeks ago. Either way, they are not a World Series team. How can they get back to the top of baseball? Do these five things:

1. Release A-Rod.

He can't run. He can't stay healthy. He can't get runners in scoring position home. His bat speed is slower than a turtle on a good day. Yet he makes $30 million per season. He is only killing the team and has become useless across the board. Brian Cashman should call Magic Johnson and the Dodgers and pick-up most of the contract. Get A-Rod OUT of the Bronx so the team can become a team again. Enough is enough.

2. Rebuild the starting rotation.

Enough cast-offs. Freddy Garcia, thanks for your time, you have done enough as a Band-Aid. Enough of Phil Hughes who still can't figure out a way to go after people, finish them off and stay consistent. Huroki Kuroda, you had your few week stretch. CC Sabathia is tiring and getting older. The Yanks haven't developed a farm arm since Andy Pettitte. Brian Cashman and his people (help us all) need to figure out a way to develop an arm in the system and sign pitchers who will be helpful for the long haul, not for eight weeks or a year and a half.

3. Find more grit.

The Yankees collapse this year had a lot to do with players not being hungry and getting after it while they were up 10 ½ games. Brett Gardner being out for the season hurts here because the guy really plays hard. But too many guys just coasted for weeks. It is time to get players back who actually cherish wearing the uniform and want to win even if they are part of a team running away with a division halfway through the year.

4. Get a catcher.

Here is how you win in October: pitching ace, deep starting rotation, solid bullpen and timely hitting. The Yankees have none of these parts. But think about how many of these elements a catcher has to do with. All of them! Russell Martin is shot. It is time to bring in a youngster or go get someone if Austin Romine and Gary Sanchez are truly that far away from helping the team. And some Yankee fans thought they wouldn't miss Jorge Posada in his prime. What a silly thought.

5. Stop making stupid trades.

Brian Cashman started the year off by shipping #1 prospect Jesus Montero to Seattle in a deal that netted Michael Pineda. Then Pineda went down with an injury and missed the entire season. Even without the injury this trade was stupid. When you trade your #1 prospect, you need to get an ace or five-tool player in return, not an unproven, young, middle of the rotation guy. This trade was a bust from the start and is just one example of how the Yankees are getting lapped by the Nationals, Orioles, Rays, Reds and other clubs around Major League Baseball in terms of trading players.

Yankees are wasting Jeter in 2012.
By: Mike Lindsley
The collapse since the All-Star break is enough to handle. The injuries are enough to handle. Watching the team age is enough to handle. It is hard to find bright spots these days if you are the New York Yankees.

And then you stop and think about the biggest bright spot of them all. That guy again. #2. The Captain. The shortstop. The face of the team since 1996. Derek Sanderson Jeter.

Have you heard of him?

He is going to have a 200-hit season in 2012 assuming he stays healthy. Jeter will hit at least .300 assuming he stays healthy and doesn't go into a mega slump. His shortstop play has been magnificent all year. He has hit in the clutch time and time again. He has started rallies time and time again. He has done it all. And yet the Yankees are not matching his production, not by a long shot. This is another wasted year for the team while the face of the team has a terrific baseball season.

See, the Yanks have done this often since 2001. They have wasted GREAT Jeter years by tanking the regular season or losing terribly in the playoffs. Jeter had a career year in 2006, for example, when he hit .343 with 214 hits and 97 RBI. Toss in there 14 home runs. Plus, DJ went 5-5 in the first game of the American League Division Series against Detroit and set the tone by himself, only to see his team lose three straight after the rainout in Game 2.

Jeter has gone wild in 2012, having a career year and carrying the team, as usual. Yet Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez cannot stay healthy or produce in the clutch, Nick Swisher fails in clutch spots late in the year, Curtis Granderson has disappeared, Robinson Cano is inconsistent and getting jumpy at the plate again and the rest of the band-aids on the team are wearing out. The pitching is a disaster top to bottom in the rotation and the bullpen has gone from great even without Mariano Rivera to a an average group at best.

The point is Derek Jeter is carrying the Yanks in 2012. Derek Jeter is playing at a high level. Derek Jeter shows heart every night. Derek Jeter gets the key hits. Derek Jeter has stayed healthy. Derek Jeter is having a career year. Derek Jeter has been a championship ballplayer in 2012.

Now imagine if the team followed suit.

Hiroki Dokie Into the MVP.
By: Mike Lindsley
The appreciation of the 38-year old Derek Jeter is a main story in the Bronx in 2012. You could say that Rafael Soriano's impact on the team is unmatched. Raul Ibanez? Splendid. Eric Chavez? Tremendous. Nick Swisher? Clutch and impressive with middle of the order guys out. Ichiro? Everything the Yanks needed for who he is NOW and how old he is NOW. But there is one guy who, so far, is the MVP of the team. A guy who Pinstripe Passion thought wouldn't even be on the roster come September 1.

Hiroki Kuroda. That is who.

Japanese pitchers don't usually hang-in for the long term in Major League Baseball. They come over with tired arms. They come over having pitched a ton of pitches and innings. They come over with a high amount of pressure to perform for their very passionate country. It just doesn't work. Add to that Kuroda, coming from the National League West for four years, and having to battle the monster lineups in the American League East and American League as a whole. Plus, Kuroda is 37 years old! When the Yanks got him during the offseason, two words came to mind: GOOD LUCK!

But Kuroda has been insanely good. He has dominated good lineups in August, Texas and rival Boston to be exact. In fact, against the Rangers, the two-time defending American League champs, Kuroda took a no-hitter into the 7th inning. His cut fastball, in and out to lefties and out and in to righties, baffled the masses in Ranger uniforms.

Kuroda is the MVP of the Yanks thus far, however, mostly because CC Sabathia has been injured twice this year and on the disabled list both times, Andy Pettitte is out with a fractured ankle until at least the beginning of September and Ivan Nova and Phil Hughes are both gigantic question marks. Freddy Garcia has battled through so many starts, but can you really trust him in October? Probably not.

Kuroda has come through, and in a big way. So here is to you, Hiroki, from Pinstripe Passion, who doubted you from day one.

Umaku itta shigoto. Job well done. Now just do it in October because that is the other thing Yankee fans are waiting for.

Put a Fork in the Yanks.
By: Mike Lindsley
It sure is hard making predictions in sports these days. Tiger Woods vs. the field is over in golf. Anyone can win on any given day. The NFL still reigns parity. College basketball has sent Butler, VCU and George Mason to the Final Four since 2006. Baseball has seen the Orioles, Athletics and Pirates stay around for the stretch run in 2012.

But this one you can mark down. The Yankees will not win the World Series this season. Oh and you can mark this one down too: they will not get out of the first round in the playoffs.

Why? Pitching, my friends. You need an ace. And you need a deep pitching staff to make a deep run in October. CC Sabathia, New York's pitcher and glue guy, is out for another 15 days minimum with elbow inflammation. Sabathia recently told national media people that he can't even raise his elbow up to his shoulder. Not good. Add to that Andy Pettitte's questionable return in September, Phil Hughes' erratic arm and Ivan Nova's nonsense and the Yankees have problems. And Huroki Kuroda is their best guy. And David Phelps is spot starting by default. YIKES!

That is why you can put a fork in the Yankees. Ultimately, did the lineup cost the team in last year's postseason? You can make the argument that the answer is yes. But all in all, the Yanks haven't had the arms to measure up with the Texas, Detroit and whoever else trio in baseball the last few years. A-Rod was amazing during the 2009 World Series run and Phil Hughes was a great set-up guy and the lineup was clutch with Hideki Matsui, Johnny Damon and that Derek Jeter fellow, but CC Sabathia was the ace and the big shutdown guy that season. The Yankees even received solid starts from A.J. Burnett (remember him?) in the playoffs that year and got four postseason wins from Andy Pettitte, two of which came in the World Series against Philadelphia (Games 3 and 6). This team in 2012 has NONE of that pitching and we are in August!

The Yankees will win the American League East. They will shower one another with champagne for making it through another grueling 162-game schedule because it is tough to do that, no matter what your payroll is. And the AL East championship flag will fly around for a few days while minor leaguers trot around the Bronx as the postseason looms.

But when the postseason arrives, forget about it. The Yankees are dead. The last flag that will fly will be an American League East banner, and 100% of the time that flag just isn't good enough in the Bronx. But Yankee fans, management and everyone else will have to deal with it for one reason and one reason only.

There isn't enough pitching to get that 41st American League pennant or 28th World Series ring in 2012.

What's the Order?
By: Mike Lindsley
Joe Girardi is trying to shake things up. Joe Girardi is trying to make players fight for positions. Joe Girardi is trying to give opposing pitchers a different look. Joe Girardi is seeing what his options are without A-Roid. Joe Girardi is taking chances.

Joe Girardi, it isn't working.

You cannot bat Curtis Granderson leadoff. Why? The guy has a brutal hitting average for one of the best players on the team and he is an RBI and HR guy in the order. He also has never been a table setter nor will he ever be. In the meantime, Derek Jeter's on-base percentage is really good and hello, the Captain has been batting leadoff for the majority of his Yankee career. Ichiro would be a good candidate considering he handled the same duties in Seattle for years. The problem is his on-base percentage is way down (but it is improving as of late, however). What's the solution? Take a look.

Against lefties:

Jeter-SS Granderson-CF Teixeira-1B Cano-2B Swisher-RF Martin-C Chavez-3B Jones (DH) Ichiro-LF

Against righties:

Ichiro-LF Jeter-SS Granderson-CF Cano-2B Teixeira-1B Swisher-RF Martin-C Chavez-3B Wise-DH

That's my lineup right now until A-Rod gets back and fails with runners in scoring position. What is yours? “LIKE” Pinstripe Passion on Facebook and send it over.

Yanks' Flaw Will Hurt Them in October.
By: Mike Lindsley
Every team has a flaw. Detroit's bullpen has been up and down. The Red Sox don't have enough starting pitching. The Angels traded for Zach Greinke because they are in the same boat. The Rangers' defense is average at best. Baltimore looks like world-beaters one day and a team you cannot take seriously the next. Toronto can't stay healthy. Tampa Bay can't hit. Cleveland doesn't have enough top to bottom. And Oakland can be shut down by a #1 starter once they come back to earth a little bit. The White Sox are the White Sox. Nothing special there.

But what about the Yankees? Well, their pitching isn't exactly the pitching staff of the 1954 Cleveland Indians, but it has hung in there. Their bullpen is one of the best in baseball despite not having Mariano Rivera. And that lineup can really hit...home runs.

Ah. Home runs. Sure those are fun. They clear the bases quickly and chicks love them too, we have been told. But when you rely on the home run all the time, a team can lack situational hitting. This has been a problem all year for New York.

Manager Joe Girardi has said all year it isn't a big deal because home runs are hits too. Well, that is true. But even Girardi, a National League guy for a good part of his playing and managing career, knows all too well that those Yankee teams he played for under Joe Torre were incredible at moving people over and getting the late hit in a 2-2 ballgame and then leaving it up to the bullpen. Girardi really does know this. He is smart. He went to Northwestern, remember.

So, if the Yanks are to be taken seriously, seriously as in “World Series contender,” they need more than Derek Jeter's opposite-field hits. They need more than Curtis Granderson's line shots into the right field seats. They need more than the sweet swing of Robinson Cano. They need more than Eric Chavez and Andruw Jones and Raul Ibanez hitting fly balls into the seats. They need more than the big, bad bullpen. They need more than the September return of Andy Pettitte or the bulldog innings of CC Sabathia. They need more than Ivan Nova and Hiroki Kuroda giving the team a chance to win. They need the above offensive players and Russell Martin and Ichiro and Nick Swisher and Mark Teixeira to deliver two-out hits from now on. And do it deep into games against the best of the best; Tigers, Red Sox, Angels, Rangers, etc.

Because if the Yankees don't become situational hitters and hit in clutch spots deep into games, you can forget about it during postseason play. After all, one of the ingredients to being a great team and making an October entrée is timely hitting.

So far in 2012, the meal has yet to be made.

Ichiro's Impact.
By: Mike Lindsley
With Brett Gardner out, Nick Swisher inconsistent and a lack of big time hitting with two outs, the Yanks acquired Ichiro Suzuki from Seattle. What kind of an impact could he have for New York? Keep reading.

1. New life.
Baseball has been brutal in Seattle, to say the least, the last several years. Ichiro is having a down year for him, but he automatically joins a high-powered offense and pennant contender. This could pump new life into the Japanese star.

2. Clutch hitting.
The Yanks hit too many home runs and haven't gotten big hits consistently. Ichiro is a very good situational hitter and bunter. This should help the Yankees manufacture runs and help the cause in winning more close games.

3. Marketing.
Remember Hideki Matsui? Yankee staff members who work in sales could make a mint off of Japanese companies looking to buy more advertisements with the Bombers. Plus, think t-shirts and apparel. And if Ichiro re-signs long enough for his 3,000th hit in pinstripes? Forget about it.

4. Outfield help.
Gardner is toast for the year and you can't rely on Swisher. Andruw Jones and Raul Ibanez are serviceable but getting old. Ichiro can spell time in both left and right fields.

5. Professionalism.
Don't worry about chemistry breaking down with Ichiro. He is a hard worker who leads by example and respects the game. He should fit right in.

Sizing Up the 2nd Half.
By: Mike Lindsley
Here we are, the second half of the Major League Baseball season has arrived. The Yankees have fought their way through injuries (CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte, David Robertson, Mariano Rivera, Michael Pineda, Brett Gardner) and brutal production in the middle of the order and yet they still lead the AL East. Here are the five things that must happen for the Yanks to keep that lead and make a serious run at the World Series:

1. Healthy pitching.
The two key pieces here are Pettitte and Sabathia. We already know that Mariano Rivera is likely done for the year even though his doctor says there is an outside chance he could return in 2012 because the rehab is going so well from the partial ACL tear. If CC and Andy come back 100% from injuries, however, that is a major boost for the rotation in terms of leadership, depth and innings pitched to save the bullpen and ultimately win games.

2. A-Rod and Tex.
Here we go again. A-Rod and Tex in the middle of the order are major RBI guys. They must hit in the biggest of series (see Rangers, Tigers, Angels, Rays, Red Sox). Sometimes the difference between playoff teams and non-playoff teams is simply big time production from big time guys. From there, RBI production in October separates pennant winners from playoff teams.

3. 1-9 production with RISP.
#2 is part of this. But up and down the order the Yanks must hit when they get on base. They are home run monsters and home runs help, but New York lacks two out hits, which are crucial during the dog days of Summer and in the postseason. This is where Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson and Robinson Cano come in as important pinstripers.

4. Bullpen confidence.
Rafael Soriano has done a magnificent job in the closer's role. David Robertson is a stud. The question marks are Cory Wade, Chad Qualls, Clay Rapada, Boone Logan, Cody Eppley and Freddy Garcia. When this group decides NOT to attack hitters, they get behind and leave fastballs for hitters, a no-no in the American League.

5. Win series.
The Yanks don't have to play blow away baseball. At the All-Star break, the Bombers led the AL East by seven games over Baltimore. If New York can just win series, as Joe Torre and Joe Girardi have said for years, they will be in good shape and lined up for October baseball and possible home field advantage.

The Cano Factor.
By: Mike Lindsley
Robinson Cano, \"Don't Ya Know\" (thanks, John Sterling) is becoming as synonymous with the Yankees as \"The Bird is the Word\" to Family Guy (thanks, Peter Griffin and Seth McFarlane).

Truth is, Cano is the best player on the Yanks, at the plate and in the field. Why is he so important? He hurts teams in three main ways. Below is \"The Cano Factor\" and why he presents so many problems for the opposition:

1. Hits it anywhere.

The situation could be no one on, and Cano hits a homer or hits a single to start a rally. Another situation could be a man on third base and Cano gets a sacrifice fly just to get the runner in. Another situation could be two on and Cano drills a three-run shot to blow the game open. Any hit at any time and anywhere. It's what makes Cano so dangerous. Managers cannot plan for him because he is so good no matter the situation. Think of Yogi Berra hitting every bad ball and every good ball thrown to him. You run out of pitches. Now if he could just calm down with the bases loaded and work the count. If that happens, he is 100% impossible to pitch to.

2. Range and arm.

Getting balls by #24 in the gap between second and first and second and shortstop isn't as easy as it once was. Cano is more conditioned in his legs compared to when he first came up in 2005. He reads balls like no tomorrow and jumps to the spot before the ball gets there. Secondly, his infield arm is the best in baseball. Anything close goes to the thrower, not the runner because Cano zips the ball to any bag so quickly. Cano's defense also kills rallies and momentum because he makes the great play look so easy and is awesome in double-play situations.

3. Maturity.

Five years ago there wouldn't have been a \"Cano Factor.\" Today there is because he is one of the best players in the game and it all started when he grew up. Credit Joe Girardi who benched the youngster years ago after Cano failed to hustle down the first base line. Now, Cano is committed to discipline at the plate, hustle out of the box and focus in the field. All of that transpires into leadership and productivity, Yankee staples. You can also credit Cano for wising up and taking the bull by the horns after Girardi's lecture. What has this all done in the end? Created the best player currently in pinstripes and arguably the best player in Major League Baseball.

When the AL Returns.
By: Mike Lindsley
Three straight sweeps are nice. Dominating inferior lineups with pitchers hitting at the end is nice. Beating average bullpens is nice. Everything for the New York Yankees in Interleague play since it began has been nice.

The Yanks are the best in baseball during the Interleague season. And they have continued serious dominance this year against National League teams Washington, the Mets and the Braves. The reasons are above. But why might they not still be a World Series team? It is simple. They don't get the key hit in the postseason and there are better lineups and bullpens in the American League.

Take, for example, the Rangers, Angels, Rays and Tigers (who haven't even hit a stride yet but have all the pieces to do so). Every one of those teams may not be as good as the Yankees now, but how they shape up for August and September and ultimately October is what matters most.

The Rangers have the most complete team out there and are clutch hitters, just look at the last two runs in the playoffs when they won back-to-back American League flags. Their rotation is stacked and when it gets healthy, look out even more. The Angels also have the goods and Albert Pujols, one of the most clutch players of the last 20 years. Tampa Bay lacks hitting but has big time arms and the Tigers have the best shutdown starter in the league in Justin Verlander.

The one key for New York to counter those clubs has been the pitching. CC Sabathia continues to be a horse even when he pitches poorly, Andy Pettitte's cutter has returned and Ivan Nova and Phil Hughes are attacking hitters and finishing them off with ground balls and strikeouts, respectively. Even Huroki Kuroda has had some nice starts as of late. You can actually credit Pettitte the most here. Since his return, the rotation has been rejuvenated and durable and everyone is challenging the next guy because no one wants to follow a string of wins with a loss.

The Yankees are riding the best stretch in 2012 without David Robertson, Mariano Rivera and Brett Gardner, no question about it. And the hitting hasn't even come around yet as a full lineup. Add to that a spectacular bullpen managed very well by the skipper Joe Girardi. It's been nice, there is no doubt about it.

But what happens when the schedule gets tougher against American League teams that you have to oust in the postseason is what really matters. The Yanks have to beat those clubs to convince more baseball people that they are in fact for real this season.

Otherwise, it may be more of the same since 2001, a first round playoff exit as AL East champions.

Yankee Pitching is A #1.
By: Mike Lindsley
Do you want to hear something you have heard before? No, not look both ways before you cross the street. No, not get the latest date possible on the milk gallon. No, not that the sun rises in the East and sets in the West.

How about this one: Pitching is important in baseball. Yawn now if you want.

But pitching is probably the most important unit for the team in the Bronx, the New York Yankees. In fact, starting pitching is more important to the Yankees than anyone in baseball.

Think about it, the Yanks have lost Mariano Rivera for the year, have lost Michael Pineda for the year, have lost David Robertson for a good amount of time and Brett Gardner is gone until who knows when.

Add to that the fact that Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira are a disaster at the plate with runners in scoring position and Robinson Cano hasn't found a true grove yet. Other than Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson and on occasion Raul Ibanez, the lineup is too inconsistent and not worthy in the clutch.

Yes, pitching is important to say the least. But the good news is that CC Sabathia is CC Sabathia and now the big fella has some help, assuming the rest of the arms can stay consistent. Andy Pettitte has something left in that left arm, Phil Hughes showed signs in Detroit and Ivan Nova always has the potential to toss 7 IP of solid ball.

During the Joe Torre era, the pitching was outstanding, but the bullpen was also the best in the game and one of the best in baseball history. The current Yankees don't have that luxury thanks to all of the injuries. Now is the time, until late September, for the pitchers to step-up.

New York needs Nova's control and command, Hughes' first pitch strikes and new attacking style and Pettitte's veteran poise, command and cutter the rest of the way. Hitting in the clutch would help too. So would healthy bodies. But the Yanks don't have either of them. So the pitching must come through.

The Yanks don't have a choice if they want to make the playoffs.

Oh Mo!
By: Mike Lindsley
He deserved better. 608 career saves. 42 postseason saves. .70 postseason ERA. The ultimate X-factor in Major League Baseball since 1997. Team leader. Intimidator. Greatest closer of all-time. No one had the great Rivera. No one.

And no one has been like him the last few decades as a person who also played the roll of star athlete. He has shown us over time that mega-star, mega-million dollar athletes can be humble along the way.

And now it may be over due to a freak accident. A freak accident occurring in Kansas City where Rivera was shagging fly balls in the outfield, something he has done for 18 years in the big leagues. Torn ACL. Torn meniscus. Good-bye season.

So what now? That is what we do nowadays isn't it? We want an answer immediately after something happens or we want an answer on top of an answer and then another answer followed by an explanation. And we have to Tweet it all.

The immediate problem is that the Yankee bullpen just became a regular old bullpen. Freddy Garcia, Cory Wade, Clay Rapada, Boone Logan, D.J. Mitchell, Rafael Soriano and David Robertson. Average to nice pitchers. None are Rivera. You take Rivera out, and now everyone moves up a slot and things get shortened up quite a bit.

The other problem is this. The Yankees were in deep trouble before this happened. They have five holes in the lineup with A-Rod and Mark Teixeira not hitting, Brett Gardner out and Nick Swisher also injured. The other hole is at the bottom of the order collectively where no one, including the soon-to-be broken down Russell Martin, swings the bat.

Oh and the pitching. Good Lord the pitching. After CC Sabathia, there are no guarantees. Ivan Nova is solid, not dominant. Hiroki Kuroda? Good luck. Andy Pettitte returning after 18 months off isn't the answer. And Phil Hughes is a disaster.

The problems were already there. The Yankees were already in trouble. And now Mariano Rivera is out. The toast just got left in the toaster too long and is officially burned.

But you can always put another piece of toast in the toaster if it burns. You can't put another Mariano Rivera on the mound in the 9th inning. And you can't have a celebration of his career with him out for the season and not on the mound.

It's too bad. Baseball deserved better. Yankee fans deserved better. Rivera's teammates deserved better.

But most importantly, Rivera deserved better.

Go-Go Cano.
By: Mike Lindsley
Have you seen the kid hit yet? Have you seen him consistently hit since 2005, when the Yanks called him up to help jolt the lineup? Really, take a look at him. He is frighteningly good. He hits the ball at ease. He hits the ball with force and power. Here are the top five reasons why Robinson Cano is one of the Top 5 hitters in the game today:

1. Hands.
His hands are always in the right spot. He turns them over when he wants to pull the ball. He stays even if he wants to take it the other way. Robinson Cano has been called “another Rod Carew” by many, and it all starts with the hands.

2. Discipline.
This is where things changed. Cano used to get into 0-2, 1-2 and 2-2 counts before you could blink. Now, his patience and discipline at the plate have completely changed how he hits. He lays off bad pitches and average off-speed stuff so he can get more 1-0, 2-1 and 3-1 counts. And if Cano forces a pitcher to throw a fastball in a hitter's count, God help the pitcher.

3. Joe Girardi.
Credit Joe Girardi for helping to make Robinson Cano into who he is today. It wasn't too long ago when Girardi benched the youngster for being lazy while running to first base, losing track of the game in the field and taking an overconfident approach at the plate. Since that time, Cano has matured, become a guy the Yanks can count on and still has fun while leading the team (the last two sound kind of like the guy playing shortstop).

4. RBI man.
One of the reasons why Cano is a better hitter and player right now than Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez is because he hits in the clutch and hits teammates in when they are in scoring position. After Cano's 97 RBI output in 2007, he dipped to 72 in 2008 and then he didn't look back. 85, 109 and 118 RBI the last three seasons. He has become clutch and feared in the lineup. Baseball traditionalists will always tell you that your best hitter should hit third in the lineup no matter what. Well, Cano is in that spot now for a reason.

5. Bat speed.
Sometimes a lightning quick swing of the bat or golf swing can be out of control and costly. In the past, however, it has worked for some athletes. Think Tiger Woods. Think Gary Sheffield or Barry Bonds (with or without steroids). But Cano's bat speed is fast when it has to be and controlled when it has to be. It depends on the pitcher, the pitcher's skill set of pitches, the surroundings, the baseball situation, etc. Cano's bat speed in a particular situation has never been better or more under control, yet another element to making Robinson Cano one of the top five hitters in all of Major League Baseball.

2012 New York Yankees Preview.
By: Mike Lindsley
2012 New York Yankees preview:

Yankee fans are getting restless again. Why? Because the Bronx Bombers haven't won a World Series since 2009! All kidding aside, the Yanks struggled to beat more complete teams in 2010 and 2011, falling short in the ALCS against the Rangers and ALDS against the Tigers, respectively.

So now the page turns to 2012. The Yankees will again contend, but will they win it all? Ultimately, that is the only question pinstripe fans need answering. Here is a breakdown of the year to come in the Bronx:

Cause for celebration:

Bullpen. At this time last year, the bullpen was the best in baseball on paper and through the year it was darn solid. Well, this year it may be even better. David Robertson and Rafael Soriano (if he stays healthy) leading into Mariano Rivera should make it tough for opponents late in the game. Boone Logan should be tough from the left side and watch out for Cesar Cabral, also from the left side, who the Yanks are very high on.

Pitching. Yes, pitching. You read that right. After the Yanks swapped mega prospect Jesus Montero for Michael Pineda, the rotation received an instant jolt. Now, CC Sabathia has protection by Pineda and 16-game winner Ivan Nova. Plus, the Yanks feel that Hiroki Kuroda is a steal at the backend of the rotation and hope for a big year from Phil Hughes. Freddy Garcia, old smoke and mirrors, is back for another run as well.

Cause for concern:

Age. Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez are a year older and Mariano Rivera, at age 42, is hinting that he may retire at season's end. Plus, Russell Martin behind the plate could face physical challenges as he ages in 2012 as well. That's four big spots on the roster.

Mark Teixeira's career struggles in the postseason. Tex was brutal against the Tigers in last year's ALDS, getting no big hits and finishing at .167. He was lost against tough Texas pitching the year before in the ALCS. It is his time to shine. The Yanks are paying him too much money to have continued failures in October.

Key Yankees:

Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez. Isn't A-Rod always an answer? The pitching looks solid heading into the year, unlike in 2011. And last year, remember, the Yankee bats failed in big spots late in the season and in October while the pitching bailed the team out (CC/Garcia/Nova/Bartolo Colon). Well, Tex and A-Rod have to get runners home. Robinson Cano shouldn't have problems doing it, but the BIGGEST bats and power hitters must come through for a serious run to the playoffs and more importantly, a deep run in October. A-Rod needs to relive 2009. Tex just needs to get it going period.

Projected rotation:

1-CC Sabathia
2-Ivan Nova
3-Michael Pineda
4-Hiroki Kuroda
5-Phil Hughes/Freddy Garcia

Projected lineup:

1-Derek Jeter
2-Curtis Granderson
3-Robinson Cano
4-Alex Rodriguez
5-Mark Teixeira
6-Nick Swisher
7-Russell Martin
8-Raul Ibanez
9-Brett Gardner

Where they'll finish:

Boston has too many question marks under new manager Bobby Valentine. Will the pitching hold up? Who plays shortstop? Is the bullpen good enough? Because of those reasons, the Yanks win the AL East. What about after that? See below:

Postseason predictions:

AL East- Yankees
AL Central- Tigers
AL West- Rangers
AL Wild Card- Angels

ALCS- Tigers over Yankees

NL East- Phillies
NL Central- Brewers
NL West- Dodgers
NL Wild Card- Giants

NLCS- Phillies over Giants

World Series- Tigers over Phillies

Awards section:

AL MVP- Albert Pujols
NL MVP- Matt Kemp
AL CY Young- Justin Verlander
NL CY Young- Cliff Lee


Stanley Law