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Top Secret Fyles
By Rich Fyle
Times Sports Copy Editor
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Top Secret Fyles

Top Secret Fyles: NFL’s thuggery image shameful

First published: September 16, 2014 at 1:09 am
Last modified: September 16, 2014 at 1:09 am

From the drawers of the Top Secret Fyles:

When Roger Goodell took command as commissioner of the National Football League in 2006, he wanted to “protect the shield,” referring to the league’s iconic logo.

America’s top spectator sport — which is no doubt a great product that produces great games — has taken big hit over the past two seasons, and especially the past two weeks.

The league and Goodell have been licking their wounds following numerous off-the-field incidents, ranging from Josh Brent, Aaron Hernandez, Richie Incognito, Riley Cooper, Ray McDonald, Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson. That’s just at the top of the volcano.

The NFL on Monday sent a memo to all teams, stating three domestic violence experts will act as advisers and will “help lead and shape the NFL’s policies and programs relating to domestic violence and sexual assault.”

The league is trying to clean up its current, sad-sack image. The NBA was once in this precarious position following athletes’ poor decision-making off the court and turned the corner.

Now the NFL, it is your turn.

There’s no doubt, the NFL is a violence sport and there’s a small group of individuals who have no business in the league. But because of athletic talent, teams take chances on dubious athletes with shady backgrounds in hopes of a championship quest.

And don’t forget, there’s portable cameras everywhere (thanks to smart phones) to record any type of questionable behavior off the field.

I’ve been following the NFL for 40-plus years and, for the past two weeks, I have been ashamed to be a fan of the once-proud league.

Trivia question: Who are the five Boston Red Sox players who hit at least 10 or more home runs at age 21 or younger in a single season?

n Did you know?: Buffalo Bills running back C.J. Spiller became the first player in 41 years on Sunday to return a kickoff of at least 100 yards for a touchdown and have a run from scrimmage of at least 45 yards in the same game. With Spiller as a dual threat, and if the Clemson product can stay healthy, the Bills can score at least 20 points per game.

Trivia answer: Xander Bogaerts (2014), Dwight Evans (1973), Tony Conigliaro (1964, 1965, 1966), Ted Williams (1939, 1940) and Bobby Doerr (1939).

Richie Rich’s Top 10 rankings in the NFL: 1. Broncos; 2. Bengals; 3. Cardinals; 4. Bills; 5. Panthers; 6. Seahawks; 7. Packers; 8. Patriots; 9. 49ers; 10. Texans.

Richie Rich’s Top 10 rankings in the Major League Baseball: 1. Angels; 2. Orioles; 3. Nationals; 4. Dodgers; 5. Tigers; 6. Athletics; 7. Mariners; 8. Cardinals; 9. Giants; 10. Royals.

Richie Rich’s Top 10 rankings in College Football: 1. Florida State; 2. Oregon; 3. Alabama; 4. Oklahoma; 5. Texas A&M; 6. Auburn; 7. Baylor; 8. LSU; 9. Mississippi; 10. Notre Dame.

Times copy editor Richard Fyle can be reached at


Top Secret Fyles: Bills off to good start, but Dolphins are worthy foe

First published: September 09, 2014 at 1:19 am
Last modified: September 09, 2014 at 1:19 am

From the drawers of the Top Secret Fyles while digesting the opening week of the NFL:

The Bills pulled off a stunning victory over the Bears and quarterback E.J. Manuel looked confident in overtime, connecting with Mike Williams to eventually set up kicker Dan Carpenter’s game-winning field goal in overtime.

Buffalo had entered as a 7-point underdog and pulled off a 23-20 victory in a game that it was probably expected to lose by numerous forecasters.

The Bills benefited that they were a plus-2 in the turnover differential against the Bears, and averaged 8.2 yards per rush between the Bears’ defensive tackles.

It’s a long ways to go, but at least the Bills have some momentum to build upon for Sunday’s home opener against the Dolphins.

Miami put together a sparkling second half to beat the Patriots, whose offensive line appeared to miss former All-Pro guard Logan Mankins, who was traded to the Buccaneers during the preseason.

Shame on the Saints: New Orleans surrendered a total of 568 offensive yards to Atlanta, which needed to win against an opponent that had won 13 of the previous 17 meetings.

The Cowboys turned the ball over four times, including three interceptions by quarterback Tony Romo, in absorbing a 28-17 defeat to the 49ers.

Meanwhile, in the past 17 games when Dallas can’t force its opponent to turn the ball over, the Cowboys are 0-17.

n Sad note: Ken Shepard, who got his first baseball executive job with the former Geneva Cubs of the Class A New York-Penn League in 1987, passed away on Friday of complications from kidney cancer. The North Syracuse native was 49.

Shepard was the general manager of the Bridgeport (Conn.) Bluefish of the independent Atlantic League.

I was a young sports reporter with the Finger Lakes Times in Geneva back in the late 1980s, and Ken’s claim to fame was a self-imposed order to sleep in a sweltering, bug-infested press box until the Cubs broke a long losing streak.

Shepard eventually gained national attention. He ended up sleeping in the McDonough Park press box for 17 straight nights, until on a Saturday night in July, when the Cubs defeated the Watertown Pirates. Ex-Pirates and Red Sox pitcher Tim Wakefield, then a first baseman, was on the Watertown roster that night.

Richie Rich’s Top 10 rankings in the NFL: 1. Seahawks; 2. Broncos; 3. 49ers; 4. Bengals; 5. Steelers; 6. Falcons; 7. Eagles; 8. Dolphins; 9. Panthers; 10. Bills.

Richie Rich’s Top 10 rankings in College Football: 1. Florida State; 2. Alabama; 3. Oregon; 4. Oklahoma; 5. Auburn; 6. Texas A&M; 7. Georgia; 8. Baylor; 9. LSU; 10. UCLA.

Richie Rich’s Top 10 rankings in Major League Baseball: 1. Angels; 2. Orioles; 3. Dodgers; 4. Nationals; 5. Athletics; 6. Cardinals; 7. Royals; 8. Mariners; 9. Giants; 10. Tigers.

Times copy editor Richard Fyle can be reached at


Top Secret Fyles: Packers vs. Colts could be intriguing Super Bowl matchup

First published: September 02, 2014 at 12:30 am
Last modified: September 02, 2014 at 12:25 am

From the drawers of the Top Secret Fyles:

The National Football League’s 95th season kicks off Thursday night when the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks play host to the Green Bay Packers.

After what appeared to be a lengthy offseason, which was marred by domestic violence issues incurred by players, it’s finally time to focus on what’s going to happen on the field.

The Texans and possibly the Falcons are two teams that could return to playoff form this season, after both were doomed by tough schedules, bad luck and injuries in 2013. The Panthers lost their entire wide receiver corps, and may be a team that falls in the NFC South.

Here’s my predicted order of finish in the league’s eight divisional races this season:

AFC East — Patriots (12-4), Jets (8-8), Bills (8-8), Dolphins (6-10).

AFC North — Bengals (10-6), Ravens (10-6), Steelers (9-7), Browns (4-12).

AFC South — Colts (11-5); Texans (10-6); Titans (6-10); Jaguars (3-13).

AFC West — Broncos (10-6); Chiefs (9-7); Chargers (8-8), Raiders (4-12).

NFC East — Eagles (9-7), Cowboys (8-8); Giants (7-9); Redskins (5-11).

NFC North — Packers (12-4); Bears (10-6); Lions (6-10); Vikings (4-12).

NFC South — Saints (11-5); Falcons (9-7); Panthers (8-8); Buccaneers (6-10).

NFC West — Seahawks (12-4); 49ers (10-6); Cardinals (7-9); Rams (4-12).

Super Bowl — Packers over Colts.

Trivia question: Which current major-leaguer has played the most games without appearing in the postseason?

Notable baseball tidbits: The Angels’ recent surge to American League West perch and the majors’ best record can be attributed to the fact that they have swept four four-game series this season, including the weekend’s blitz past former AL West leader Oakland, which had led the Angels by four games as recently as Aug. 10. ... .Cubs outfielder Jorge Soler last week became the first major-leaguer in the modern era to record an extra-base hit and RBI in each of his first career four games. ... .The Mets on Sunday socked 11 hits in their 6-5 win over the Phillies — the first time in 11 home games that New York got more than six hits at Citi Field. ... .The Red Sox and Yankees were each one-hit Saturday, marking the first time since May 26, 1989 that both Boston and New York were one-hit on the same day.

Trivia answer: The A’s Adam Dunn (1,976 games), who was recently acquired from the White Sox.

Richie Rich’s Top 10 rankings in Major League Baseball: 1. Angels; 2. Orioles; 3. Nationals; 4. Athletics; 5. Dodgers; 6. Giants; 7. Royals; 8. Tigers; 9. Mariners; 10. Cardinals.

Richie Rich’s Top 10 rankings in College Football: 1. Florida State; 2. Alabama; 3. Oregon; 4. Oklahoma; 5. Auburn; 6. Ohio State; 7. UCLA; 8. Michigan State; 9. Baylor; 10. Georgia.

Times copy editor Richard Fyle can be reached at


Top Secret Fyles: Yankees need to re-invent their future plans

First published: August 26, 2014 at 1:01 am
Last modified: August 26, 2014 at 1:01 am

From the drawers of the Top Secret Fyles:

Perhaps the New York Yankees should make a couple of notes on how to build a long-term, successful winning franchise.

It’s no secret; it’s through something called the farm system.

The Yankees knew about this during the late 1990s when they won four World Series titles within five years, thanks to the hefty contributions of Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Bernie Williams, Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera.

The Yankees entered Monday’s makeup game against the Royals six games behind AL East leader Baltimore and 3 ½ games behind Seattle for the second wild-card in the playoff chase.

New York has become an aging team, and no doubt that many of the injuries the team has incurred this season have been age related.

The sad part is that there is none to very little high-end talent in the Yankees’ farm system.

New York is in line to miss the playoffs for the second straight season. If former owner George Steinbrenner was alive, heads would roll.

The Yankees don’t want to throw away seasons like the Cubs are presently doing. The Cubs have amassed plenty of talent in the farm system in recent years, mainly because the parent team hasn’t been competitive in almost six seasons.

The Yankees will never throw away seasons because the organization, fans and media would never tolerate it.

But let’s get with it, if the Yankees want to return to prominence — the only goal is to win championships — they have to invest in the farm system, and stay away from these high-end middle age 30 players who get a ton money, only to be hurt or underachieve.

Trivia question: Who are the three major league players who have recorded 50 home runs and 40 doubles in a single season?

Richie Rich’s Top 10 rankings in Major League Baseball: 1. Angels; 2. Athletics; 3. Nationals; 4. Orioles; 5. Dodgers; 6. Royals; 7. Mariners; 8. Brewers; 9. Cardinals; 10. Tigers.

Times copy editor Richard Fyle can be reached at


Top Secret Fyles: Intrigue abounds about NBA draft selections for ex-SU hoops stars

First published: June 24, 2014 at 1:17 am
Last modified: June 24, 2014 at 1:17 am

From the drawers of the Top Secret Fyles:

While former Syracuse University star C.J. Fair tours the NBA workout circuit, ex-teammates Tyler Ennis and Jerami Grant are thinking higher with the league’s draft set for Thursday.

Fair worked out for the Clippers, Jazz and Mavericks last week in hopes of impressing a team if he’s not drafted. The Orange’s top scorer in each of the past two seasons is not projected to be taken in the two-round draft, according to leading NBA draft experts.

Six of the top 10 mock draft websites have Ennis going as the 20th overall pick to the Raptors. That could be a good fit for the dynamic point guard, joining a young-and-upcoming team that won the Atlantic Division this past season with a 48-34 record.

Because Ennis is a Canadian, he would be an instant drawing card for the Raptors.

NBA Draft Room projects Ennis as the 11th pick by the Nuggets — that’s the highest forecast — while he is at No. 25 by the Rockets, the lowest projection among the 10 mock drafts.

The former freshman directed the Orange’s 25-0 overall start last season before declaring himself eligible for the draft.

While Ennis seems like a certain first-rounder, Grant’s selection can bridge between the first or second rounds, according to the experts.

The highest projection for the ex-SU power forward is 18th by the Suns according to NBA Draft Room, while two draft boards target Grant to be taken 26th by the Heat and two more see him being picked 27th by the Suns. Phoenix has two selections in the first round. Four other sites project Grant as a non-first-round pick.

Hard to believe baseball statistic: Three-time AL batting champion and 2009 AL MVP Joe Mauer of the Twins has only two RBIs in 151 plate appearances in 33 road games this season. The former catcher-turned-first baseman is hitting .261 with 2 home runs and 22 RBIs in 68 games overall.

Here’s another mystery: The Syracuse Chiefs of the International League have the best overall record among Triple-A teams this season at 47-30, but they are last among 14 teams in attendance. The Chiefs are averaging 3,008 paid fans per game over 34 dates. The team is on target for its worst attendance in NBT Bank Stadium’s 18-year history.

n Trivia answer: Derek Jeter (Yankees), David Wright (Mets), Jimmy Rollins (Phillies), Ichiro Suzuki (Mariners) and Carl Crawford (Rays).

Richie Rich’s Top 10 rankings in Major League Baseball: 1. Athletics; 2. Giants; 3. Brewers; 4. Tigers; 5. Dodgers; 6. Blue Jays; 7. Angels; 8. Nationals; 9. Braves; 10. Royals.

Times sports copy editor Richard Fyle can be reached at


Top Secret Fyles: Coburn’s remarks ill-timed after horse’s loss, apologizes

First published: June 10, 2014 at 1:37 am
Last modified: June 10, 2014 at 1:37 am

From the drawers of the Top Secret Fyles:

Emotions got the best of California Chrome co-owner Steve Coburn after his horse was denied a Triple Crown victory by Tonalist at Saturday’s Belmont.

On Monday, Coburn repented after his bitter remarks, criticizing horse racing’s system of allowing owners to select what Triple Crown legs the horses participate.

Coburn was upset that Tonalist didn’t run in the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, but pulled out a second victory at the lengthy Belmont track in four weeks, after winning the Peter Pan Stakes on May 10.

Coburn came off as a crybaby after tying for fourth place, saying that Tonalist owner Robert Evans took “the coward’s way out.” Coburn wanted an equal playing field, suggesting the Belmont lineup should have been horses that had ran in both the Derby and Preakness, racing’s first two legs.

This is horse racing and these animals are delicate creatures. Evans had wanted to have Tonalist in the Derby, but sickness prevented the horse to run in the qualifying Wood Memorial a few weeks before the Derby.

At least, Coburn took a smart PR person’s advice and apologized — better late than never.

n For Tony Gwynn’s fans, here are a couple of juicy statistics on the Hall of Fame batting champion worth noting.

The former Padres’ All-Star hit a combined .381 — with only three strikeouts — in his career against star pitchers Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux, both going into the Hall of Fame next month, and John Smoltz, who becomes eligible for the Hall next year. In Gwynn’s total career 9,288 at-bats covering 2,440 games over 20 seasons, the outfielder posted only one three-strikeout game.

n Channel surfing: SNY-TV baseball analyst Keith Hernandez has turned into this century’s version of former Yankees announcer Phil Rizzuto behind the microphone.

The Mets’ announcer always seems to have entertaining comments — and some amusing stories during his playing days with the Cardinals, Mets and others — and definitely can chat up a good game.

Though at times, the former first baseman can be overly critical on today’s major leaguers and their execution — or there lack of — on plays.

n Speaking of the Mets, who have returned to their losing ways with a current six-game skid, did you know that former Mets second baseman reject Brandon Hicks — now with the Giants — has twice as many home runs than David Wright?

Hicks, who went 4-for-43 in spring training with the Mets in 2013 before being sent down to Triple-A Las Vegas, caught on with San Francisco this season, replacing the injured Marco Scutaro, and has hit eight homers. All four of Wright’s blasts this season have been hit at Citi Field in Flushing.

Richie Rich’s Top 10 rankings in Major League Baseball: 1. Giants; 2. Athletics; 3. Brewers; 4. Blue Jays; 5. Tigers; 6. Nationals; 7. Angels; 8. Braves; 9. Mariners; 10. Cardinals.

Times sports copy editor Richard Fyle can be reached at


Top Secret Fyles: Everything going wrong this season for Red Sox

First published: May 27, 2014 at 12:30 am
Last modified: May 26, 2014 at 9:34 pm

From the drawers of the Top Secret Fyles:

Perhaps the Boston Red Sox will put together a hot streak following Monday’s 8-6 come-from-behind victory over the Atlanta Braves, ending a stunning 10-game losing streak for the defending champions.

The Red Sox (21-29) need to get going in a big way before they fall off the edge of the earth.

Every possible move right in 2013 for Boston, which had hit the restart button after a bad 2012 season, signing key free agents that played key roles in winning the World Series.

The Red Sox signed not big-name players, but guys like outfielder Jonny Gomes and first baseman Mike Napoli, who play baseball the right way.

This past offseason was a disaster for Boston, re-signing only Napoli out of seven free agents from last year’s club, until shortstop Stephen Drew was signed last week to provide stability in the infield.

Meanwhile, outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury (Yankees) and catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia (Marlins) were the key players that left last year’s title club.

Saltalamacchia really has been missed. He has developed into a top-flight receiver with his ability to handle pitchers, thanks to the teaching of former bullpen coach Gary Tuck, now with the Yankees.

The Red Sox have been a mess in the outfield all season — Shane Victorino twice on the disabled list and Daniel Nava was optioned to Triple-A before he was recently recalled. Boston has been in search of a leadoff hitter all season.

Third base has been a problem spot, with now Will Middlebrooks on the DL for the second time, and over the weekend, Napoli was placed on the DL with a finger injury.

Starting pitcher Clay Buchholz, who enjoyed a great 2013 campaign, has been lost on the mound. His ERA is at 7.02.

In the recent losing skid that was Boston’s worst since 1994, the starters’ ERA was 6.18 and the team was outscored 52-36.

Until Dustin Pedroia’s key two-run single and David Ortiz’s three-run home run in a five-run fifth inning that tied Atlanta on Monday, the Red Sox’s meat-and-potatoes hitters badly slumped.

Pedroia managed one RBI during the losing streak, and Ortiz had no extra-base hits in his past 36 at-bats before Monday. Overall, Boston hit.212 as a team and .197 with runners in scoring position before the offense woke up Monday.

However, the Red Sox are fighting tough odds to make the playoffs.

As reigning champions, only the 1998 Marlins and the 1947 Cardinals had a worse record on Memorial Day than the 2014 Red Sox, and only that depleted Marlins team and the 1986 Royals endured longer losing streaks than Boston. In the wild-card era that began in 1995, no team with a 10-game losing skid has made the playoffs.

At least, the Red Sox have time to recover in the flawed AL East Division.

Richie Rich’s Top 10 rankings in Major League Baseball: 1. Giants; 2. Athletics; 3. Tigers; 4. Braves; 5. Blue Jays; 6. Brewers; 7. Angels; 8. Cardinals; 9. Rockies; 10. Yankees.

Times sports copy editor Richard Fyle can be reached at


Top Secret Fyles: Pacers determined this time will be their time

First published: May 20, 2014 at 12:30 am
Last modified: May 19, 2014 at 8:17 pm

From the drawers of the Top Secret Fyles:

The Pacers enjoyed the first strike, but will they have the last say against the Heat in the NBA Eastern Conference finals?

Indiana, the East’s top seed, was dominant in Sunday’s 107-96 win over Miami in Game 1, mainly because the Pacers came out focused and executed its game plan against the two-time defending champion.

It’s the third straight season the East’s heavyweights have met in the playoffs, with Miami taking the previous two series. In 2012, the Heat needed six games and a rally to oust the Pacers, and then eliminated its rivals last year in a grueling seven games.

If you’re a Heat fan, there’s no reason to panic, as long as Miami doesn’t lose Game 3 or 4 at home later this week.

Led by swingman Paul George and guard Lance Stephenson, the Pacers are well-balanced, deep and physical. Their counterparts boast a championship pedigree, a pair of superstars (LeBron Jamesand Dwyane Wade though both have amassed plenty of mileage over the past eight seasons) and solid 3-point shooting.

The Pacers have to continue to attack the Heat’s soft middle, specifically Chris Bosh and Chris Andersen if they want to win the series. Pacers center Roy Hibbert ended his self-induced “AWOL” in the opener. Bosh, meanwhile, continues to struggle against the Pacers, who have limited him to 34-percent shooting from the field and an average of 9 points per game over the past nine meetings, including playoffs.

When Indiana beats Miami, it’s because the Pacers are shooting around 50 percent from the field, and the little 4- and 5-foot shots are dropping. That was the case in last season’s playoff meeting when the Pacers won Games 2, 4 and 6.

Miami needs to fine tune its game, after Wade and James combined to score 52 points, including a 23-of-36 from the floor in Game 1. Where was the rest of the team?

The Heat needs to improve on its 3-point game (6-of-23 or 26 percent) and getting to the foul line, where the Pacers outattempted the Heat, 37-15.

The Pacers started the season winning 46 of 59 games through March 2, before going 18-18 the rest of the regular season and the first two rounds of the playoffs. After sleepwalking in their previous postseason series victories against the Hawks and Wizards, the Pacers are FINALLY motivated to dethrone the champs.

Will it happen? That remains to be seen in a potentially terrific series that’s destined to go seven games.

■ With Canadiens goalie Carey Price out of the NHL’s Eastern Conference playoffs because of a bum ankle and spurred by teammate Martin St. Louis’s emotions following the untimely death of his mother, the Rangers have to be favorites to make the Stanley Cup finals. It’s a question of how many games.

Richie Rich’s Top 10 rankings in Major League Baseball: 1. Tigers; 2. Athletics: 3. Brewers; 4. Giants; 5. Braves; 6. Orioles; 7. Rockies; 8. Yankees; 9. Cardinals; 10. Angels.

Times sports copy editor Richard Fyle can be reached at


Top Secret Fyles: Former SU stars Ennis, Grant should fare well in NBA draft

First published: April 29, 2014 at 1:37 am
Last modified: April 29, 2014 at 1:36 am

From the drawers of the Top Secret Fyles:

Based on current projections by leading NBA draft experts, former Syracuse University standouts Tyler Ennis and Jerami Grant should enjoy exciting times when the draft takes place on June 26.

Ennis, the freshman point guard who directed the Orange’s 25-0 overall start this past season before declaring himself eligible for the draft, has an excellent chance to be a lottery pick (14th spot or higher). The lottery is May 20.

Meanwhile, Grant, the sophomore power forward who gave the Orange a rebounding force in games, may land just outside the lottery cutoff point (14th spot or lower).

Milwaukee, which had the league’s worst overall record this season, has a 25-percent chance to win the No. 1 pick, while Philadelphia has the nextbest chance to win the top spot.

A pair of writers projects Ennis to go seventh or eighth in the draft, while and Bleacher Report has Ennis going 16th by the Bulls and 17th by the Celtics, respectively.

Grant is slated to go later in the first round.

The pair has Grant going a respective 16th (Bulls) and 20th (Raptors) — also the same position that targets Grant. Bleacher Report has Grant being picked 24th by the Bobcats.

SU’s four-year star C.J. Fair is projected to be picked in the second round — 47th by the 76ers and 59th by the Raptors, according to, and 32nd overall by the 76ers, according to

With three star players on the draft board, SU should be prominently mentioned on TV.

■ As mentioned in this column two weeks ago, if you like drama and excitement, tune into the NBA and NHL playoffs.

So far, the action is each respective league has been awesome.

Since the NHL playoffs began April 16 and the NBA three days later, there have been a combined total of 20 overtime games over 12 days before Monday night.

NHL home teams are 27-14 and NBA home squads are an underachieving 13-17.

Prior to Monday’s play, four NHL teams have advanced to the second round, and no NBA squad has clinched a first-round, best-of-seven series, though the Heat is close, leading the Bobcats three games to none. When more NBA road teams are victorious in the playoffs, intrigue only goes skyward.

■ Basketball lost one of its best personalities on Monday with the death of former NBA Hall of Fame coach and television analyst Jack Ramsay at 89.

The former Buffalo Braves head coach for four seasons who later directed Portland to the league title in 1977, had a sharp mind for the game and a keen wit conveyed to viewers.

Richie Rich’s Top 10 rankings in Major League Baseball: 1. Brewers; 2. Braves; 3. Rangers; 4. Athletics; 5. Yankees; 6. Giants; 7. Tigers; 8. Mets; 9. Rockies; 10. Dodgers.

Times sports copy editor Richard Fyle can be reached at


Top Secret Fyles: Yankees’ bullpen needs to be more of a stabilizing force

First published: April 22, 2014 at 12:30 am
Last modified: April 21, 2014 at 6:58 pm

From the drawers of the Top Secret Fyles:

The New York Yankees paid a lot of money to upgrade their starting pitching for the 2014 season.

With a three-game set beginning tonight against the defending World Series champion Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park, New York had better hope the bullpen is straightened out after splitting four games this past weekend at Tampa Bay.

The Red Sox can feast on any bullpen — good or bad. Just ask the Orioles, who blew a 5-0 lead on Sunday and lost at Boston, and almost coughed up a 6-0 edge on Patriots’ Day before holding on to win, 7-6.

The Yankees were fortunate to escape St. Petersburg, Fla., with two wins, considering in the two losses, they were outscored by a combined 27-6 by the light-hitting Rays.

In Friday’s 11-5 setback, Tampa Bay battered five Yankees’ relievers for nine hits and eight runs. Adam Warren not only blew the save opportunity, but also took the loss.

Saturday’s 16-1 trouncing was even worse for the New York, whose three relievers were pounded for eight hits, eight runs (six earned) to go with four walks and three strikeouts.

Backup infielder Dean Anna was forced to come in late and do mop-up work to save the bullpen’s arms.

In the two disasters, the Yankees’ bullpen allowed a combined 17 hits, 16 runs (14 earned) with five walks and four strikeouts over 6 1/3 innings for a jaw-dropping 19.89 earned-run average.

Maybe manager Joe Girardi’s crew turned the corner during the Yankees’ 5-1 win Sunday in 12 innings, though Warren was charged with another blown save.

Preston Claiborne, the last of five Yankee relievers who hadn’t arrived until Sunday morning following his recall from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, earned the win. The relievers allowed three hits, an unearned run to go with three walks and eight strikeouts over seven innings.

Claiborne now may be viewed as the bullpen savior, after he had pitched poorly in spring training and failed to make the opening day roster.

Closer David Robertson is close to returning from a groin injury, pushing Shawn Kelley back to eighth-inning duty.

■ The NFL draft is set for May 8-10, and here are Bleacher Report’s latest projected top 10 picks: 1. Texans, Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina; 2. Rams, Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M; 3. Jaguars, Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M; 4. Browns, Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida; 5. Raiders, Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson; 6. Falcons, Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo; 7. Buccaneers, Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA; 8. Vikings, Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville; 9. Bills, Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M; 10. Lions, Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn.

Richie Rich’s Top 10 rankings in Major League Baseball: 1. Athletics; 2. Brewers; 3. Braves: 4. Dodgers; 5. Tigers; 6. Cardinals; 7. Rangers; 8. Nationals; 9. Yankees; 10. Giants.

Times sports copy editor Richard Fyle can be reached at

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