Wild Card Yanks Can Be Anything They Want

By Jason Klein

The Yankees drew a Wild Card.

They can turn their mediocre hand into something special.

Tanaka Time in the Bronx Tonight vs. the Astros.

Tanaka Time in the Bronx Tonight vs. the Astros.

The Postseason offers a clean slate for all. Just like in poker, the Yankees can be anything they want to be as a Wild Card.

2’s can be Jacks. 7’s can be Queens.

Ordinary baseball teams can be Kings.

Just ask the 2014 San Francisco Giants.

Sure, the Yanks looked lifeless as they stumbled towards Tuesday night’s one-game playoff at Yankee Stadium. Losers of six of their last seven games, the Yanks weren’t hitting, looked tired, and appeared destined for a quicker hook than Joe Philbin got in Miami.

None of that matters now, though. That’s old news.

They made it to October as a Wild Card. They’ve got a seat at the table – just like those 2000 Yankees, who also sputtered through September and won 87 games. Those guys turned a Wild Card berth into a Championship.

Today’s team shows their hand tonight. It starts with an ace, Masahiro Tanaka. He’ll take the ball in this sudden-death matchup with the Houston Astros – the exact type of game the Yankees envisioned him pitching when they invested $175 million in him prior to the 2014 season.

It’s his biggest moment as a Yankee. It’s the most important game the franchise has had in two years. It’s the type of event that could propel them towards a 28th title.

October is different. The Yankees organization knows that better than anyone.

Ante up, Yanks! Push those chips to the center of the table.

Tonight, as a Wild Card, they can be anything they want to be.

Perhaps even winners.

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Yanks Need A-Rod To Speak Softly, Carry Big Stick

By Jason Klein

His words are hollow, just like his milestone records.

That’s ok though. I don’t need to believe his new humble “good guy” routine. I don’t care where his personal triumphs will ultimately rest within baseball lore either. As a Yankees fan, in 2015, I only need Alex Rodriguez to do one thing.

A-Rod Has Returned.  So Has His Power!

A-Rod Has Returned. So Has His Power!

Keep hitting.

Defying Yankees brass is his business.   Defying Father Time is mine.

Thirteen games into 2015, he’s doing a great job of both. Yankees management had hoped the 39 year-old, admitted PED cheat would disappear faster than his own credibility. Instead, he’s strong-armed his way back into the heart of the Yankees line up, batting .286 with 4 HR and 11 RBI. Coming off two hip surgeries, and a yearlong steroid suspension, he’s once again the team’s most potent offensive force.

Fans around the league are disgusted by his return to baseball. Big deal. They never liked him to begin with. Yankees fans should embrace this! To make the Postseason in 2015, the Bombers need his bat to stay hot.

Just a few months ago, the remaining $61 million left on Rodriguez’s contract was an albatross. For the time being, it seems like money well invested. This will hold true as long as he speaks softly and carries that big stick.

To date, he’s done everything right. Despite all the scrutiny, haters and doubters, he came back and refused to be insubordinate or average. Instead, he’s batted all over the line up, willingly learned how to play first base, and kept his focus on helping the team win games. He’s also determined to be A-Rod again – one of the premier sluggers in the game.

So far, so good.

In 2015, Yankees fans shouldn’t concern themselves so much with A-Rod’s past. When he ties Willie Mays with home run #660 – he’s only 2 HR shy – don’t worry about whether the team publically celebrates or privately pays him a bonus for it.

That’s his concern.

For the team to find success this year, there’s only one thing Yankees fans need Alex Rodriguez to do.

Keep hitting.

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Like A-Rod, Sanchez About To Take On The World. Alone.

By Jason Klein

Just four years ago, I compared Mark Sanchez, to Derek Jeter.

Now, he more closely resembles Alex Rodriguez.

It’s a shame, really.

Like a young Jeter, Sanchez once exhibited confidence, poise and passion.  He also found ways to win big games.

Big playoff games.

Both Sanchez & A-Rod will face hostile crowds, for different reasons.

Both Sanchez & A-Rod will face hostile crowds, for different reasons.

Now, like A-Rod, he’s all alone.

He has the majority of his own fan base, and people within his own organization seemly rooting against him.   He’s saddled his team with an immovable contract, been involved in controversial plays on the field, and controversial situations off it.

Yet, Sanchez takes the field tonight in Detroit looking to prove all doubters and dissenters wrong.

Sanchez against the World.

A-Rod begins a similar fight tonight in the Bronx, but for much different reasons, obviously.

A-Rod cheated his organization.  Sanchez was simply cheated by his.

A-Rod made his own poor decisions.  Sanchez was a victim of those made by others.

A-Rod deserves the ridicule.  Sanchez deserves a fair shot to prove he can win again with proper support.

Tonight, two well-paid, and well-famed New York athletes will take center stage.  Both are polarizing figures.  Both will be booed by their home crowd.  At 38 years-old, A-Rod is simply playing out the string.  At 26 years-old, Sanchez potentially has his best years ahead of him.

If he’s going to spend them playing in New York, the kid from SoCal needs to be confident, poised, and passionate again.  He’s got to find ways to win big games again.

He’s got to be more like the face of the Yankees.

Less like the face of Biogenesis.

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First Pitch

By Jason Klein 

Originally Written For IN New York Magazine – 3/31/11

Time for a fresh start.

A pen rests peacefully on the desk, nestled next to a clean, white, crisp piece of paper.  Together, they will transcribe history.

There are no guidelines or limitations for what’s about to be written.  No guarantees either.  Only hope.

Time to pick up the pen and script a new beginning.

The 2011 Season Starts Today

It’s Opening Day.

Regarded as a pseudo National holiday, the celebration grants all 30 Major League Baseball Clubs a clean slate, and takes place today, and tomorrow, within stadiums across the country.  It’s one of the most anticipated events on the sports calendar.  After a miserably long, cold winter here in the New York area, baseball fans are eager to trade in their snow shovels for Louisville Sluggers and get cracking!

Legendary Yankees Centerfielder, Joe DiMaggio, once said, “You look forward to it like a birthday party when you’re a kid. You think something wonderful is going to happen.”

“Joltin’ Joe” couldn’t have spoken truer words.

Everyone’s a kid on Opening Day.  Children of all ages play hooky from school, and work, properly commemorating the day and basking in its excitement.  It’s an opportunity, as a fan, to believe in the impossible.  Today, everyone’s in first place, and everyone has a chance to achieve greatness.

Even the Mets.

In Queens, Opening Day 2011 is truly the dawn of a new era.  New Manager, Terry Collins and General Manager, Sandy Alderson, replace Jerry Manuel and Omar Minaya, respectively.  New leadership and focus at the top will help a team that looked lost much of 2010.

The 2011 Mets are looking to improve on a paltry 79-83 record, good for 4th place in the National League East last year.  They will have their hands full in a very difficult division.  For the Mets to capture the flag, they will have to go through their long-time rivals, the Atlanta Braves and the Philadelphia Phillies – a team stacked with the most dominant pitching staff in the sport.  If the Phillies were playing poker, they’d confidently go “all in” with their four aces, Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, Cole Hamels, and the newly re-acquired, Cliff Lee.

A successful 2011 season for the Mets will depend on their ability to stay healthy.  Johan Santana, the jewel of the pitching staff, is already in danger of missing the entire season as he recovers from elbow surgery.  Question marks in the outfield could cause problems as well.  Carlos Beltran continues to battle the same knee problems that plagued his 2010 and Jason Bay pulled a rib cage muscle this week, an injury that could send him to the Disabled List to start the season.

The Mets Hope Bay Stays Healthy This Year

If key members of their offense can spend more time in the lineup than the infirmary, this club could contend.  They will have no trouble scoring runs with stars like Jose Reyes and David Wright at the top of their order again this year.  Add a healthy Beltran and Bay to the mix, and the Mets could potentially compete.

Across the river, in the Bronx, a new season brings the same expectations: an October date with the jeweler.  That’s when the Yankees hope to be fitted for World Series rings commemorating another championship, the 28th in franchise history.

Like the Mets, the Bronx Bombers will have no trouble scoring runs in 2011.  Superstars like Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Robinson Cano round out the heart of a devastating lineup and will do most of the damage for the Yankees.  Expect a big offensive year from Curtis Granderson as well, as he looks to rebound from a subpar inaugural season in pinstripes.

The face of the franchise, Derek Jeter, will also try to improve upon a statistically poor offensive 2010 season.  Now 36 years-old, The Captain will look to silence critics by still producing at a superstar level. Jeter will make history this summer, becoming the first Yankee to collect 3,000 hits in pinstripes.  He enters the season only 74 hits shy of the mark –he should get there by mid-June.

The key to the entire Yankees season is an unlikely one: A.J. Burnett.  With Andy Pettitte’s retirement, and Cliff Lee’s decision to take his talents to Philly instead of the Bronx, Burnett’s shoulders might get sore carrying the added expectations.  CC Sabathia will be solid at the top of the rotation, as usual, but he’ll need help.  Burnett must carry his weight and turn the page on a disastrous 2010 season, recapturing the magic on the mound that helped bring the Yankees a Title in 2009.

Should the train go off the track early on, look for General Manager, Brian Cashman, to make some moves and shore up the rotation before the trading deadline.  With two stud catching prospects in Jesus Montero and Austin Romine, the Yanks might have the chips to land a top starter via trade.  Promoting the young, and highly regarded pitching prospect, Manuel Banuelos, is another option.

Derek Jeter Will Reach The 3,000 Hit Milestone in 2011

The acquisition of Rafael Soriano should compliment the legendary, Mariano Rivera, joining forces to form a dominant backend of the bullpen.  With those two, the Yankees will certainly have no problem finishing games.

Before they can finish though, everyone has to start.  It begins this afternoon, in the Bronx, with the Yankees and Tigers.  It continues tomorrow night with the Mets and Marlins in Miami.  Time to pick up the pen and begin documenting history.

It’s a fresh start.  It’s Opening Day.

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