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The Yankees held onto their fifth win of the season Tuesday in their home opener in front of a record-setting crowd.  The Bombers took a 7-1 lead into the ninth inning after homers by Derek Jeter and Nick Johnson and 2-RBI games from Jeter and Alex Rodriguez.

The Yankees also collected their World Series Championship rings in a short ceremony before the game which each player being announced and jogging out from the dugout to join their teammates along the first baseline.  After each player was introduced, former player Hideki Matsui was announced and he walked out from the Angels dugout.  It was great watching Matsui as he waited to be announced – he looked so proud and as if it was difficult for him to hold in a big smile.

After Matsui ran out and collected the same ring box every Yankee player received, the entire team surrounded him at the pitchers mound and gave him a bear hug.  In an interesting twist, Joe Girardi ran over to give Matsui something before the game and it turned out to be his World Series ring.  Apparently the box that Matsui received did not have his real ring in it – Derek Jeter reportedly substituted the real ring with a fake one to play a joke on Matsui.

The same joke appeared to be played on Nick Swisher after Mariano Rivera was seen handing him a ring after the ceremony.  Rivera said some words to Swisher and Swish seemed to acknowledge that a joke was played on him.

In the game, Andy Pettitte was more then sufficient on the mound, last 6 full innings, holding the normally powerful Angels lineup scoreless and limited to only 5 hits and 3 walks.  He also struck out 6.  Chan Ho Park allowed one run in two innings and in a relatively low-pressure ninth inning, David Robertson promptly loaded the bases and allowed Bobby Abreu to bring the score to 7-5 with a grand slam home run.

Skipper Joe Girardi then brought in Mariano Rivera to finish the game and pick up his 3rd save of the season.

The Yankees offense was sparked by solo home runs by Johnson and Jeter in the first and third innings and RBI singles by Jeter and Rodriguez in the fourth and sixth innings to bring the score to 5-0.  Kendry Morales put the Angels on the board in the 8th with a solo shot off of Park and the Bombers promptly responded with an RBI double by Jorge Posada and a RBI single by Curtis Granderson.

That sent the game into the top of the ninth with the Yankees leading 7-1.  After Abreu’s heroics, Rivera came into get the final two outs and complete the game.

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The Battle Begins: Yankee Brass vs. Scott Boras

I’m calling this story the “Life and Times of an older Yankee free agent outfielder: Part II.”

Part I happened last year.  After two and half season manning the right side outfield of Yankee stadium, Bobby Abreu was all but shunned by the Yankees Brass and had to sign with the LA Angels – for $5 million – $11 Million less than he had earned the season before.  Well, Abreu didn’t devalue as a player and ended up being a steal for the Angels, who re-signed him in this offseason for almost double – 2 years and $19 Million.

Fast forward to this year and we are just getting into Part II of this story, only the new leading man is Johnny Damon, the likable guy who has manned the Yankee outfield for most of the last 4 seasons.  Coming off a 4-year, $52 Million contract that he signed with the Yankees in the 2005-6 off-season, Damon and his agent Scott Boras are looking for a new deal in the 3-4 year range – a deal that would presumably be the last of the 36 year-old’s career.

Although I would guess that a large majority of Yankee fans would love to see Damon back in pinstripes for the near future, it would be irresponsible to sign him to a 3-4 year deal at his age.  Right now, the man is still quick in the outfield and can play 150 games a season, but at 36, it’s very hard to pinpoint when he might start degrading as an outfielder.

I realize that many might argue that Damon could be a DH in his later years, but a good GM has to look at what the main pieces of his team are going to be like in 2-3 years.  Derek Jeter turns 36 this June and Alex Rodrgiuez turns 35 this July.  Both are most definitely going to be with the Yankees for as long as they play the game of baseball.

In 2-3 years, the DH is going to be an interesting position for the Yankees – I would guess it’s mostly going to be a combination of Jeter, Rodriguez and one other player.  The Yankee skipper will have to be able to give Jeter and Rodriguez days off from playing the field as they get slower and worse at defense.  Plus, I don’t care what people think – Derek Jeter will never play another position except shortstop.  Mark it down now.

That being said, let’s get back to the topic at hand: Johnny Damon.  What I just wrote above shows the Yankees would be silly-stupid to consider signing Damon for longer than 2 years.  I’m not saying right now that the Yankees should dump Damon after the two years, but instead, look at what the situation is then.

Using Abreu’s new contract as a measuring stick, Damon may not be worth much more than 2 years, $18 Million.  His agent, Scott Boras has said he is looking for a multi-year deal – which is probably in Damon’s best interest, but it’s not and shouldn’t come from the Yankees.  He might get some other team to do it, but will they offer the same amount of money per year that the Yankees would offer in shorter 1-2 year deal?  Probably not.

This scenario will play out over the course of the next few weeks behind shut doors mostly, with leaks coming from here and there. and hopefully it ends up with Damon starting in the #2 spot in the lineup next season.  But, it will come down to the nitty-gritty fighting skills of Yanks GM Brian Cashman and super-agent Boras.

Now…where’s that steel cage??

The Comedian of all Yankee Bloggers — albeit a beat writer — the incomparable Peter Abraham said this on his blog this morning…

They’re started dismantling the old Yankee Stadium, stripping out the grass and now they’re taking down the outfield walls. This part of the wall had very little wear and tear as Bobby Abreu rarely touched it.

Ha-ha-ha. I needed that laugh this morning. That is an instant classic. The day Abraham goes to ESPN, I will mourn.

Lovable and well-liked former Yankee basher Bobby Abreu is close to a deal with the Los Angeles Angels, Ken Rosenthal reports.

Abreu is a victim of the economy this year. Any other year he might have gotten a 2-3 year deal worth more than 30 million, but he’s most likely to get a 1-2 year deal at around $8 million per.

I have nothing but praise for Abreu. He did his job in pinstripes, and I’m sorry that it didn’t translate into a ring for his finger…

It’s 2009 and there are a slew of free agents still available. Three big Yankee names still remain unsigned: Bobby Abreu, Jason Giambi, and Andy Pettitte.

SI’s Jon Heyman ranked the top 20 remaining free agents. One guess who is number one, and no, it’s not Manny.

Yep, Heyman ranked Abreu number one. Bobby’s one of three MLB players who has had at least 100 RBI the last six seasons. The other two are A-Rod and Albert Pujols. Heyman has Giambi at #8 and Ramirez at #13 and Pettitte at #12.

I don’t know what Heyman was thinking when he wrote this. I think Abreu is at worst a #3, but Giambi at #8 and Pettitte at #12? Even worse, Ramirez at #13?

I’d put Ramirez at #1, seriously. He’s one of the best hitters of his generation and he should be #1. Abreu could be #3. Giambi should be a high teens and Pettitte should be a low teens.

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