Tagged: George Steinbrenner

Yankee Doodle Bland-y…

Credit:  Rich Schultz-Getty Images

Blue Jays 4, Yankees 1…

The 4th of July is a great time for America as it celebrates the birth of our country.  Sadly, the Yankees were unable to provide any fireworks as they fell quietly to the Toronto Blue Jays on Tuesday.  

The game marked the return of CC Sabathia. Before the game, Manager Joe Girardi was hoping for 5 or 6 innings from Sabathia.  Unfortunately, it would prove to be something comparable to me hoping for winning PowerBall numbers. In retrospect, maybe CC should have taken a rehab assignment.  

The first inning went well enough as Sabathia retired the first three batters on fly outs to center, although he had Jacoby Ellsbury running hard for several of them.  The 2nd inning saw another three up, three down pass through the Jays lineup.  So far, so good.

Then, the 3rd inning happened.  The first two batters…no problem.  Steve Pearce flied out to left and Kevin Pillar struck out swinging.  Then, with two outs, Darwin Barney walked.  A wild pitch by Sabathia moved Barney to second.  Joey Bats followed with a single to right, scoring Barney.  Russell Martin singled and Josh Donaldson walked to load the bases.  Adam Warren got up in the bullpen to begin warming up.  On a 3-2 count, Sabathia threw Ball 4, high and outside, to Justin Smoak, which scored Bautista.  Kendrys Morales stepped up and lined a single to left through the hole, which scored Martin and Donaldson.  4-0 Blue Jays and it was shower time for Sabathia.  Warren came in to record the final out but the damage was done.  63 pitches by Sabathia (39 in the 3rd inning alone) and he was clearly laboring at the end.  He finished with 3 hits and 4 runs in 2 2/3 innings, walking 3 and striking out just 1.  Sabathia (7-3) saw his season ERA inflate to 3.81.  

Credit:  Kathy Willens-AP

The Yankees’ lone highlight came in the bottom of the 4th when All-Star Aaron Judge crushed a J.A. Happ pitch 456 feet to center, a line drive, for his 28th home run of the year.  The Statcast exit velocity of the ball was measured at 118.4 mph.  One more home run and Judge will match the Yankees rookie season HR record held by Joe DiMaggio. 

Credit:  Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

From there, the Yankees could not muster any further offense against Happ or the Jays bullpen.  Happ, a 20-game winner in 2016, picked up only his 3rd win of the year with six strong innings, holding the Yankees to four hits and the lone run.  The Jays pen held the Yankees hitless for the duration of the game.  It was a nice job by the Yankees bullpen too, most notably the 4 2/3 innings of scoreless relief provided by Luis Cessa.  

The Yankees will attempt to take the series today with a win before the Jays leave town.  Tomorrow represents an off day (finally).  In their final series before the All-Star Break, the Yankees will host the Milwaukee Brewers for three games beginning Friday.  

The Yankees (44-38) slid four games behind Boston as the Red Sox beat the Texas Rangers, 11-4.  Boston’s on a roll now with their sixth consecutive victory.   The Tampa Bay Rays are quietly sneaking up on the Yankees for second place as they are now just 1 1/2 games in back of the Pinstripers.  The Rays beat their former manager Joe Maddon and the Chicago Cubs yesterday, 6-5.  

It would have been great if the Yankees could have won on the birthdays of the United States and late owner George Steinbrenner but it was not meant to be.  We can only hope that the winning magic will return today.  Michael Pineda can make it happen.  

Odds & Ends…

After yesterday’s game, the Yankees dumped Chris Carter again.  It’s time for Carter to seek employment elsewhere.  In his final game for the Yankees, Carter was 0-for-2 and dropped a ball from Didi Gregorius in the 7th that was scored a hit for Joey Bats.  Fortunately for us, the Yankees decided it was time to pull the plug on Chris Carter Experiment II and have promoted first baseman Ji-Man Choi from Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to take his place.  In 55 games for the RailRiders, Choi, formerly of the Los Angeles Angels, hit 8 HR’s and 41 RBI’s while batting .286.  Choi is not the answer but at this point, he’s better than the man he replaced.  Choi will be available for today’s game.  

Credit:  J Conrad Williams Jr-Newsday

The Yankees’ decision to send Bryan Mitchell to Triple A on Tuesday rather than Luis Cessa was based on the desire for Mitchell to continue working as a starter for potential help in the rotation later in the season if necessary.  

Credit:  J Conrad Williams Jr-Newsday

Logan Morrison, shut up.  The Rays first baseman called out Gary Sanchez on Tuesday when he said the Yankees catcher did not deserve to participate in next week’s Home Run Derby.  In the midst of a career season, Morrison said “I remember when I had 14 home runs (Sanchez currently has 13).  That was a month and a half ago.”  Morrison was not selected for the All-Star Game and is currently one of five listed on the AL Final Vote ballot, along with Didi Gregorius and Mike Moustakas.  Even if Morrison somehow won the Final Vote, I seriously doubt that baseball fans would want to see him over Sanchez in the Home Run Derby.  Morrison can go spend next week in Tampa or Kansas City or wherever he’s from while Sanchez heads for Miami.  

Have a great Wednesday!  I prefer to see this as Winnin’ Wednesday.  Let’s Go Yankees!

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Looking Ahead to 14 Days in July…

Credit:  Eric Christian Smith/Associated Press

Team Prospect-Hugger could get a new look the last two weeks of July.  In an interview, Yankees Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner indicated that he’ll look at any deal that crosses his desk during the final two weeks of July.  He’ll read the scouting reports, talk to GM Brian Cashman and the Scouting Department and tap into other resources to determine the best moves for the Yankees organization moving forward.  He said that he’ll divert all of his attention to any one deal that comes across his desk as he has always done in the couple of weeks leading up to the trading deadline.  It doesn’t mean that he’ll approve a deal but he’ll certainly give more than a passing thought to any deal that makes sense.

Steinbrenner sees the value in holding onto the team’s prospects as they have done for the last three or four years.

With significant dollars coming off the payroll at the end of the year ($59 million alone with the expiring contracts of CC Sabathia, Matt Holliday, and Alex Rodriguez), Steinbrenner feels the Yankees will be active in the free agent market.  “To what degree, and in what areas remains to be seen”, said Steinbrenner, in talking with reporters.

I am probably somewhere in between Hal and his father, George.  I’d be more inclined to make moves to strengthen weaker areas.  But I’d also be trying to find ways to unload dead weight off the roster.  Spending $46 million for CC Sabathia’s unreliable performances and Alex Rodriguez’s “consulting services” is a bad return on investment in a statement of the obvious.  Why don’t they just increase it to $47 million and toss me the difference? I would certainly have a more company-aligned outlook and they would be no worse for the wear.  I am looking forward to next year when a greater percentage of the payroll goes to active, contributing members of the team’s 25-man roster.  

Even though Steinbrenner may not be open to considering any deals until mid-July, there’s no doubt that Cashman and Company have already begin dialing other teams to open dialogue for potential trades involving targeted players.  If the Yankees do prove that they are for real this year, it should be a very fun and active July.  I am certainly not expecting a Bryce Harper or Manny Machado type trade, but reinforcements to stay the upward course would be very much appreciated.  

I am glad to hear that one of my favorite prospects, pitcher Albert Abreu, will be coming off the DL for High-A Tampa on Friday.  Abreu has been on the DL since May 2nd with elbow inflammation.  Abreu will start in Friday’s game against the Dayton Tortugas in place of Domingo Acevedo, who was promoted to AA-Trenton.  

Last summer, the two best outfield prospects in the Cleveland Indians organization were Clint Frazier and Bradley Zimmer.  Zimmer received his call to join the Show this week, and looks to be a long-term fixture in Cleveland as an Andrew Miller teammate.  On Wednesday, with his parents in attendance, Zimmer had a run-scoring double and a home run.  Zimmer, two years older than Frazier, looks to be one of the game’s superior talents for years to come.  I know it’s not Yankees-related but it is great to see good young players flourish in the Major Leagues.  There’s no doubt he received a congratulatory text from Frazier.

The Yankees were victorious in baseball action last night with an 11-7 victory over the Kansas City Royals.  With the final game of the series to be played today, the Yankees have already taken the series by winning the first two games of the three-game set.  

Of the three Royals pitchers that we would be facing, I was most concerned about Jason Vargas.  The veteran pitcher had gotten off to a great start at 5-1 with a 1.01 ERA.  But four innings and six runs later, the ERA had more than doubled to 2.03.  Michael Pineda (4-2) was the winner, but he did give up two home runs.  For six innings of work, he gave up six hits, four runs (three earned), and two walks.  He also registered 5 K’s.  I would have liked to have seen better work but with the Yankees racing out to a 10-2 lead by the fifth inning, Pineda was guilty somewhat of letting up on the gas.  

Every Yankee in the starting lineup got a hit in the 16-hit attack.  Aaron Hicks, filling in for Jacoby Ellsbury, hit a three run homer in the fourth inning on a 2-for-4 night.

Credit:  John Sleezer/Kansas City Star/TNS

The Royals scored three runs with two outs in the ninth inning against Yankees reliever Giovanny Gallegos.  With two runners on base and the potential tying run on deck, Dellin Betances came in for one out, a soft grounder back to the pitcher, to end the game, recording his first save of the season with just four pitches. 

The Yankees (24-13) took advantage of a loss by the Baltimore Orioles to move 1 1/2 games up in the AL East.  The O’s lost to the Detroit Tigers in a close game, 5-4.  Former Yankee Justin Wilson, recently named closer for the Tigers, picked up his third save.  It could have been a great night but the Boston Red Sox pulled out a 5-4 win in 13 innings against the St Louis Cardinals.  

Have a great Thursday!  Hopefully the Yankees grab another “W” before racing to Kansas City International Airport for the flight to Tampa later this evening.

No need to counter Boston’s moves…

All Quiet on the Eastern Front…

It has been a very quiet end of the year for the Yankees.  There were rumors of the Yankees talking with the Chicago White Sox about Jose Quintana and David Robertson but they quickly lost legs.  While the Yankees need starting pitching, I agree that it is best not to raid the newly stocked farm system.  It is a risk to bet on prospects over an established major leaguer, but while Jose Quintana is a good pitcher, he’s not Chris Sale.  Given Chicago’s desire for top prospects in return, it just does not make sense.  Quintana will not be a 2017 difference maker.

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Credit:  Kevin Jairaj, USA Today Sports

I still believe the Yankees are better served by identifying an undervalued young starter with potential.  Sure, that’s every team’s wish but the Yankees have the scouts and resources to uncover the hidden gems.  It is harder to pitch in New York than it is in, say, Pittsburgh, but for some guys, the main stage brings out their full potential.

The New York Mets’ Noah Syndergaard was once just a prospect included in a trade (when the Mets dealt knuckleballer R.A. Dickey to the Toronto Blue Jays).  I think that trade has worked out very well in favor of the Mets.  It also brought them starting catcher Travis D’Arnaud.  The 2012 trade was a risk for the Mets given Dickey was the reigning NL Cy Young winner, but he has never been as good as he was in 2011 and the other guys sent to Toronto are after thoughts (Josh Thole and Mike Nickeas).

The Yankees are not going to win the World Series in 2017.  The current blueprint puts the Yankees on the path to World Series contention in two to three years.  They have the time to develop frontline starters so why not take a chance on some other team’s “Jake Arrieta”.  The Chicago Cubs saw something in the former Baltimore Orioles hurler and it has paid off quite handsomely for them.

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I have high hopes for the Yankees young pitching prospects.  James Kaprielian heads the list, but I haven’t forgotten or given up hope for Ian Clarkin.  Jordan Montgomery and Dietrich Enns are other homegrown prospects that come to mind.  The first young starters that will be given the chance to crack the rotation next season are the obvious ones…Luis Cessa and Chad Green.  There’s also the hope that Luis Severino restores the promise that he showed in 2015 and is not just another failed starter that succeeds in the pen.  Trade acquisitions Justus Sheffield, Dillon Tate, and Albert Abreu also hold promise.

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Credit:  MLB.com

If Severino is successful and just one of the young prospects stands out in the Spring, the rotation that already includes Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda and CC Sabathia does not look so bad.  It might not be ‘Chris Sale-David Price-Rick Porcello-Eduardo Rodriguez’ worthy, but the foundation is being laid for future success.  It will be imperative for the Yankees to re-sign Tanaka should he opt out of his contract following the season, but Sabathia’s departure as he plays out the final year of his contract will continue to create opportunity for the young prospects.  Michael Pineda is a case by himself.  He is either a really great starter or a disaster.  If he can ever hold the focus on the former, the pitching staff will be significantly improved.

Next season, young players like Gary Sanchez, Aaron Judge, Tyler Austin, and Greg Bird will play prominent roles for the Yankees.  If any are not successful, there is another wave of young players waiting for their opportunities at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre or Trenton.  It is inevitable that we’ll see outfielder Clint Frazier at some point in the season, even if it is just a September call-up.  I don’t want to lose this talent in the farm system for the chance on a pitcher which always seems to be the biggest risk in baseball.  Gleyber Torres has already shown that he has that “it” factor even if he is still a few years away from the Bronx.  Stay the course.  GM Brian Cashman’s blue print so far has been successful.  He has turned what was one of the worst farm systems a few years ago to one of the best.  They have the talent and depth in the system to make quiet but effective trades without sacrificing the organization’s best.

2017 may not be a banner year for the team but clearly the light is visible at the end of the tunnel.  Now is not the time for the Ghost of Steinbrenner Past to raise its ugly head.  Young Hal seems to have a plan and one that will soon yield fruit.  Patience.  Stick to the plan…

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—Scott

Roll camera, on your mark, ACTION!…

The Dawn of the Baseball Winter Meetings…

This week is always the most eventful one of the entire off-season.  A flurry of activity followed by relative silence as we head into the holidays.

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Credit:  AP Photo/Seth Wenig

Before the meetings start later this evening, the Yankees have already lost one option with Houston’s free agent signing of former Yankee Carlos Beltran.  I had mixed feelings about his possible return to New York.  He was arguably the team’s best hitter last season but he is also 40 years old.  For a team that has aggressively gotten younger, adding “old” does not necessarily make sense.  There is no guarantee that Beltran will be as good as last year, and it’s a near impossibility that he’d be better.  Going with older veterans, I’d rather sign either Matt Holliday or Mike Napoli to a short-term deal that keeps the Yankees on the right path toward World Series contention in 2018 or 2019.

Back in the old days under George Steinbrenner, I am sure that both Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista would be Yankees by now.  Of the two, I’d prefer Encarnacion but I don’t feel the Yankees should lock up huge long-term dollars for either player even if it would severely weaken the Toronto Blue Jays in the short run.  In a couple of years, they’ll just be over-paid, under-producing aging veterans.  We’ve seen enough of those in recent seasons.

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Credit:  Reuters/Ray Stubblebine

There are unofficial reports that the Los Angeles Dodgers have a deal in place with starter Rich Hill so that’s one less option on the pitching front.  A deal with Jason Hammel probably makes the most sense.  I like Hammel as a reliable, back of the rotation guy.  He would be a good complimentary piece to Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda as the team looks to fill other pitching spots with youth.  I would probably take a chance with either C.J. Wilson or Tyson Ross if given the opportunity.

It’s possible that GM Brian Cashman can uncover a quality arm via trade but it’s a virtual certainty the team won’t be involved in the Chris Sale sweepstakes.  Sale alone would not make the Yankees an immediate World Series contender and he would cost the best quality of the farm system to acquire.  So, the Yankees need to stay the course as they continue to add the pieces for future success.

I was disappointed to see minor league hitting coordinator James Rowson leave the organization.  I am happy to see him return to the major leagues as the hitting coach for the Minnesota Twins, however, I thought he would have been a better hitting coach for the Yankees than current hitting coach Alan Cockrell or assistant hitting coach Marcus Thames.  When the Yankees had dismissed Jeff Pentland last year, I was hopeful that Rowson would get the job.  It was not meant to be.  I think he’ll be a good addition to Paul Molitor’s staff in Minneapolis and should help former Yankee and current Twins’ co-catcher John Ryan Murphy to hit again.

I remain hopeful the Yankees re-sign pitchers Nathan Eovaldi and Jacob Lindgren* as they recover from Tommy John surgery.  Granted, neither pitcher will help in 2017 but I would really prefer to see them stay.

Let’s hope this week brings good news for Yankees fans…

—Scott

 

*Several hours after this post, the Atlanta Braves announced they’ve signed Lindgren to a one year deal that will allow them to retain rights to Lindgren if they add him to their 40-man roster.

The Mets must be New York’s team…

We’re mediocre and we like it!…

I fully understand why the Yankees can’t field a starting rotation full of $25 million per year starters.  I recognize that Max Scherzer is most likely cost prohibitive for even the rich Yankees.  But my problem is the off-season of inactivity has me concerned about the prospects for 2015.  I am glad the Yankees signed lefty reliever Andrew Miller and re-signed starting third baseman Chase Headley, but as it stands, the Yankees are not a better team today than the one who finished with 84 wins last season.  Miller’s addition was offset by closer David Robertson’s departure, and Headley is a returnee.

Other guys who helped make a difference last year, like Brandon McCarthy and Francisco Cervelli, are no longer Yankees.  The Yankees were wise not to pay McCarthy $48 million for four years, but he will still be missed.  Cervelli brought lefty specialist Justin Wilson to the team and he’ll help in the bullpen, but it remains to be seen if John Ryan Murphy or Austin Romine can match his intensity as Brian McCann’s backup.

It’s difficult watching other teams make bold moves to improve while the Yankees sit idly by.  If the Yankees are not in on Scherzer, then why are they not pursuing guys like Kris Medlen.  Medlen was a very talented pitcher before he got hurt.  There’s risk for the Kansas City Royals in signing Medlen today, however, there’s also very good upside potential.  The Yankees’ preference was to re-sign #5 starter Chris Capuano who failed in Boston and was considering Japan when the Yankees called.

If the Yankees had a strong farm system with the upper levels stacked with major league ready talent it would be one thing, but that’s not the case.  The best talent are years away from helping.

Honestly, if the Yankees are not going to try to win, I’d prefer to see them blow the team up and send the trade-able players away for quality prospects.  A few 95 loss seasons for the chance to return to prominence would be preferable to an annual 85 win team that consistently comes up short in September.

Or better yet, I’d prefer to see the Steinbrenner family sell the team to someone who shares the understanding that George Steinbrenner had about the importance of successful Yankee teams.

The Yankees are not going to win with the current roster.  Paying Alex Rodriguez nearly $30 million per year for the next three years has, so it seems, to have paralyzed the team’s finances.  Mediocrity courtesy of A-Rod.

It’s almost comical when I hear players like Andrew Miller say that he joined the Yankees to win.  With Team Mediocrity, the only winning he’ll see is going to the bank to deposit his paychecks.

Right now, the Yankees fan base seems very lethargic and disappointed.  Maybe that’s just me, but the fan base needs to be energized.  Management needs to do something to show the nation they are committed to being successful in 2015.  We need something to energize us.  I am not sure what it would take, but anything is better than nothing.  Pinning your hopes on the good health of CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira and others is simply a suicide mission.

There’s still time for the Steinbrenner boys to show Major League Baseball that they are still the Yankees.  But each day of inactivity brings us closer to the inevitable season of disappointment.  It’s funny, the person who may pay the price ultimately is manager Joe Girardi.  If the Yankees continue the downward spiral, someone will have to be held accountable.  Somehow, I don’t think it will be Hal or Hank Steinbrenner.

George, we miss you.

–Scott

If we pay you this money, can you get 8 of your buddies to cover the other positions on the field?…

13 long years…

Say what?…

As Giancarlo Stanton and the Miami Marlins approach the finish line on the potential largest contract in the history of Major League Baseball, I can’t help but wonder how crazy this is.  13 years at $325 million is a lot of money any way you slice it.  Granted, Stanton will only be 37 at the end of the deal, but I stand with the many who believe that excessively long contracts are not good for the sport.

While guys like Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera earned their pay through their last games, the tail end of the contracts for Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and CC Sabathia are looking ghastly.  For A-Rod and over $30 mil per year for three more years, the Yankees get a guy who hasn’t played for a year and is being mentioned as a back-up first baseman/DH type.  If he manages to hit 20 home runs next season, it will be considered a success but not when you tally the cost of each of those home runs.  Stanton is not A-Rod and odds are that Stanton will be playing at a higher level toward the back end of his contract, but there is so much potential for this deal to go drastically wrong.  With players now frequently receiving opt out clauses, it’s too bad that the teams do not get an opt out when things go sourly.  I would love to see the Yankees use the money slated for A-Rod, Teixeira and Sabathia elsewhere.  If the Yankees maintain the status quo this offseason (signing only their own free agents) and do not make any attempt to upgrade the team, we’re faced with another mediocre season and it’s directly the result of the bad contracts.

The Yankees lost a great player when Robinson Cano signed his monster deal in Seattle, but even in retrospect, I think the Yankees were smart in not matching Seattle’s offer.

Giancarlo Stanton is a great player and the Marlins are better with him than without.  But I do not like the precedent that it sets.  Odds are that Stanton opts out and gets even more money so good for him.  Yet, what protects the Marlins from a bad investment?  Or how the bar is elevated for future deals?  I am trying wondering if I will see players receiving a percentage of team ownership one day.

When I was a kid, I remember star pitcher Ron Guidry having to settle for $900,000 because George Steinbrenner said that he’d never pay a pitcher a million dollars a year.  I guess times have changed…

The early results…

So far, the Yankees have re-signed Chris Young and acquired lefty reliever Justin Wilson.  I think both moves are good for the back of the roster.  The Yankees needed to do something with Francisco Cervelli given the catching depth and to get a guy like Wilson was a smart move given the team’s difficulty in finding a replacement for Boone Logan.

Young earned a return to the Bronx with his September performance.  Hopefully, that’s the player the Yankees are getting for 2015 and not the earlier Mets version.

As much as I would like to see the Yankees pursue Jon Lester or Max Scherzer, I’ll be very relieved if and when the Yankees re-sign David Robertson, Chase Headley and Brandon McCarthy.  New York is a hard place to play, but all three of these guys have shown they can prosper in the Bronx.  Robertson followed a legend with grace and ease, Headley showed brilliant defense at a position we really haven’t seen since Graig Nettles, and McCarthy gave the Yankees a chance to win with almost every start.  Dellin Betances had a great first year but we really do not know if he could make the transition to closer.  It wasn’t something that Robertson was able to do immediately as he did not enjoy success the year Mariano Rivera was hurt in Kansas City.  I believe that A-Rod will look to be the older, injury prone player that he has become, if not worse.

The Yankees need to make some inspired trades.  It may mean taking a chance on someone who, for whatever reason, has not found his potential, but that’s okay.  I’d rather take a chance on a young player with upside than getting locked into a three year deal with an aging outfielder.

I was glad to see former Yankee and Pirate A.J. Burnett re-sign with Pittsburgh, foregoing more money from his last year’s team, the Philadelphia Phillies.  Burnett was a good fit in Pittsburgh and it was nice to see a player take an offer that extended beyond just money.

Not that I want to wish the year away, but I am anxious for next month’s winter meetings so that Project Improve the Yankees can start taking form…

–Scott

Parting is such sweet sorrow…

I was never a fan of good-byes…

Sadly, the 2013 Major League Baseball Season has come to an end.  Well, at least for the New York Yankees.  It was an eventful final week that saw a farewell to the great Mariano Rivera that was unmatched by any I have seen in recent years or even during my lifetime.  Mo’s final game at Yankee Stadium turned out to be the final game of his professional career as he chose not to pitch during the season-ending series in Houston to preserve his Bronx goodbye as the final exit for a storied and soon to be Hall of Fame career.

I have been a Mariano Rivera fan since the days when he set up John Wetteland in the bullpen.  His 7th and 8th inning appearances before the cardiac appearances by Wetteland were electric.  The ball seemed to come screaming with blazing speed yet Mo seemed so effortless in letting the ball leave his hand.  He made it look easy, and for the length of his career, he proved he was just a little better than everyone else.  Sure, there were a few hiccups along the way.  A couple of key blown saves in critical games, but these were few and far between.  His success rate was far superior to any failures, and in those failures, you knew that Mo had left his all.

Looking back, I certainly have no regrets.  It was an honor and privilege to be a Yankees fan and to witness the career of the latest Yankees legend.  He’ll be someone that my grandchildren will be talking about, and I can say that I saw him pitch from the beginning to the end.  Mo showed how special it was to play for one team, and he is forever embedded into Yankees lore.  Ichiro Suzuki will be immortalized in Cooperstown one day as a Seattle Mariner, but Seattle will never be able to call Ichiro exclusively their own.  They may have had his best years, but he still is playing his final years as a Yankee, not a Mariner.  Fortunately, we never had to see Mo in another uniform or his former catcher, Jorge Posada.

I have been a Yankees fan since 1974 when free agent Jim “Catfish” Hunter, then my favorite pitcher, signed with the Yankees.  I had grown up very intrigued by the Yankees with their great history and tradition.  Those early 70’s were still a tough time for the Yankees organization, but they were about to turn the corner following the acquisition of the team by George Steinbrenner and his partners.  To digress, I always loved the quote “There is nothing in life quite so limited as being a limited partner of George Steinbrenner”.   This quote is attributed to former Yankees minority owner and later Houston Astros owner John McMullen.  The first baseball biography I recall reading when I was little was a book about Lou Gehrig, and I’ve been a fan of his ever since.  So, when Catfish made the decision to join the Yankees, it was very easy for me to follow.

During the course of my Yankees fandom, I’ve considered the following players to be my favorite Yankees.  Hunter, Thurman Munson, Rich “Goose” Gossage, Don Mattingly, and Mariano Rivera.  All those years and I can still count my favorite active Yankees on one hand, well until today with Rivera’s retirement.  That doesn’t mean I don’t respect other Yankees over the years, these guys just happened to be my personal favorites at the time they played.

Being someone who appreciates history and tradition, I’ve always felt that Rivera was the perfect man to take Jackie Robinson’s number to retirement for the final time.  Mo proved that he had the character to stand with greatness, and he served the legacy of Jackie Robinson very proudly and understood its significance.  I am glad that the last guy out of baseball with #42 wasn’t some thug just trying to hang on to a lost career, with rumors of a steroid past.  He wears #13.  Okay, sorry, I didn’t mean that, or maybe I did, but you get the point.  Jackie Robinson was a great man who dealt with more adversity than any of us will ever knew.  He did it while turning the other cheek and proving he was the better man.  He did this while carving out a Hall of Fame career on the field.  If there was a man who deserved to have his number retired across baseball, it was Robinson, and if there was a man who deserved to be the final one to walk off the field with it, it was Mo.  The Baseball Gods made sure this one played out like it was supposed to.

Mo, we thank you for simply being you.  You did it your way, and you never strived to be anything other than what you were.  You proved better than most in shaking off the game’s failures and you never gloated in its successes.  You were proud of your teammates and respectful of your opponents.  Baseball needs you, and I hope that this is just the beginning as you move into the next phase of your career.  I am proud, very proud, when I say that I am a Mariano Rivera fan.  He exceeded my wildest expectations and he leaves as the best ever at his position.  He deserves to be a first ballot entry to the Hall of Fame.  Anything less is unacceptable.  He was ours and he proved he belongs to the Hall like no other that I’ve personally witnessed during my lifetime.  Farewell, Mo.  This is not the end, but simply the closing of one chapter and the opening of the next.

 

Mariano Rivera

 

AP Photo (courtesy of LoHud Yankees Blog)

The gaze from under the brim of his cat…

While the focus of this post is Rivera, I would be remiss for not saying thanks to Andy Pettitte.  Time and again, he stopped losing streaks and he was clutch when it mattered most (October).  He never had the brilliant stuff of Felix Hernandez or Roy Halladay, but he was a winner.  His passion showed and he was a champion.  It was tough watching him leave via free agency for those three years in Houston, but I am glad he came back.  Even during his time in Houston, you’d hear stories about how Andy still followed the Yankees.  He is part of the Yankees family and history and always will be.  It was so very fitting that his final game was a complete game win in his hometown of Houston.  A bit ironic that the opponent was named Clemens (Paul Clemens, no relation to Roger).  For the final game of the season, Roger Clemens did make an appearance to wish farewell to Mariano, and he gave Andy a hug.  There has been a lot of mudslinging between the former close friends and regardless of what Roger may have or have not done, I was glad to see the small reconciliation.  Baseball is greater than any one of us, and at the end of the day, Clemens, Pettitte, and Rivera were teammates and they represented the our team.  I fully expect to see all three at future Old Timer’s Day games and I am hopeful that old scars can be healed and that the game itself can move forward.

Back to Andy, he will be a hard act to follow.  When you look at the Yankees pitching staff, there is not one that can match Andy’s heart.  CC Sabathia appears to be on the downside of his career, Hiroki Kuroda could very well head to Japan for his final season or two, Phil Hughes has worn the pinstripes for the last time, Ivan Nova is a roller-coaster and the jury is still out on David Huff.  Next season will be one of transition and it is unfortunate that we’ll no longer have Andy as an anchor to the rotation.  Andy’s ceiling was never as a #1 pitcher.  He came to the major leagues with question marks, but he left as one of its greatest post-season performers.  We were lucky to call Andy one of our own, and I am glad that he was never dealt away in one of those knee-jerk type of trades that we saw during the George Steinbrenner regime.  Sorry, George, I miss you but you gotta admit that some of those trades left a little bit to be desired…

Getting back on track, Andy leaves the game being able to stand shoulder to shoulder with the greatest lefty in Yankees’ history, the Chairman of the Board, Whitey Ford.  The Core Four (Rivera, Pettitte, Jorge Posada, and Derek Jeter) did an excellent job in reaching the pinnacle of their positions in franchise history.  Posada may not have matched Yogi Berra, Bill Dickey or Thurman Munson, but he can stand in the same room.  DJ is obviously one of the greatest shortstops in the team’s history (along with Phil Rizzuto).  For a team so stacked in history and tradition, four contemporary players reaching the upper echelon is amazing.  It is the end of a terrific Yankees era, and as much as I hate to see Derek Jeter go out with an injury filled career, I would prefer for him to leave now rather than to come back next year for what most likely will be a year of reduced relevance on the roster.

What does the future hold?…

I really do not know what to expect next year.  At the moment, it is uncertain if Robinson Cano or Curtis Granderson will be back.  Joe Girardi is talking about needing time to decide if he wants to come back which is not a good sign in my opinion.  Mark Texeira will be back next year, but he is deteriorating as he ages.  I am not sure that CC can get back to being the dominant pitcher he once was, and the line-up is filled with age and injury-susceptible players.  The farm system at the upper levels is weak, at best.  While many of said that this has been a great year of managing by Joe Girardi, I’d argue that it has not been one of Brian Cashman’s best years.  I do not know how much he has been constrained by ownership, but the 10 wins that the team could have used this season could have been acquired through smart and strategic moves.  The farm system is very lacking at the upper levels and I know that injuries have played a part, but at some point, Cashman has to be held accountable.  Like fine wine, it is harvest season except the Yankees do not have anything to harvest.  They’ll have to overpay and to give up too much young talent to field a championship squad next season.  Unfortunately, neither makes sense even for the Yankees, so it feels as though we are in the midst of an era of transition.  Hopefully, greatness will be waiting on the other side…

–Scott