“It ain’t over ‘til it’s over”…
There is a reason that Mariano Rivera has been my favorite Yankee for a very long time. I know that Derek Jeter is a quality guy and a favorite of many, but for me, Mariano Rivera has always been the premier player in my opinion. It doesn’t mean that I feel Jeter’s not a great player…he is. He is most likely a first ballot Hall of Famer and will go down as the greatest shortstop in Yankees history (with no disrespect to Phil Rizzuto). But Rivera has always handled himself with dignity and class, and he’s always been accountable when things have gone wrong. He has never disrespected another player or team, nor has he placed blame anywhere but with himself. He hasn’t always been perfect, but he’s clearly the best closer in major league history (with no disrespect to Goose Gossage).
I have been dreading the day when Rivera walks off the field as a player for the final time. But I never dreamed that, potentially, his final moment would be inability to walk off the field under his own power. It was very disheartening to see the pre-game injury when Rivera tore the ACL in his knee this week against the Kansas City Royals. I kept hoping for the best when I first heard the news, but it is now known that he’ll miss the remainder of the season. Given that he is 42, the road to recovery is going to harder than if he was still in his 30’s. Nevertheless, withn 24 hours, Rivera was saying that he wasn’t going to go out like this and that he’d be back next season after much speculation this might be his final season prior to the injury.
If Mo says that he’ll back, I am fully confident that he will be. I am sad that we won’t see #42 come out of the bullpen for the rest of the year, but I look forward to next season when Mo perhaps takes the final lap in what has been a legendary career. I will always be appreciative that Rivera wore pinstripes, from beginning to end, and he’ll remain one of my favorites in the history of the storied franchise.
That first step is a doozy…
David Robertson has big shoes to fill as he steps into the closer’s role but I have faith and confidence in his abilities. I hope that Rafael Soriano is up to the challenge of making a positive impact as he slides back into the role of primary setup man. Just as Andy Pettitte has become a much more needed pitcher than he was when it was announced he was going to pitch this year, the need for the return to good health for Joba Chamberlain is equally important. I am glad that one of Manager Joe Girardi’s strengths is his ability to work the bullpen so I continue to view the Yankees relief corps as a strong unit despite Rivera’s absence.
A few favorites…
With Rivera as my favorite current Yankee player, it made me think of my other favorites:
- Favorite living former Yankee: Don Mattingly
- Favorite former Yankee who played during my lifetime: Thurman Munson
- Favorite all-time player: Lou Gehrig
- Favorite manager: Billy Martin (followed closely by Joe Torre)
- Favorite owner: George Steinbrenner
- Favorite current Yankee (excluding Rivera): Robinson Cano
- Favorite Yankees team: 1998 Yankees (closely followed by 1927 Yankees)
There are many other players that I will always have special feelings for…most notably, pitcher Jim “Catfish” Hunter, for whom I attribute to why I am a Yankees fan today. I was a fan of the Oakland A’s and Hunter in particular when I was young, but everything changed when he signed with the Yankees as a free agent in December 1974. I had always admired the history and the tradition of the Yankees (the first book I recall reading was a biography about Lou Gehrig), so bring the combination of the Yankees and Hunter together brought me to the team as a fan. I’ve been a faithful one ever since that time.
I’d be remiss by not mentioning Mickey Mantle. A great player who really could have been even greater than he was. I was able to attend his funeral in Dallas, and I remember seeing a few of the former Yankee greats who were in attendance. It was an experience that I’ll never forget. Bob Costas delivered a tremendous eulogy. It’s amazing to think of what Mantle could have accomplished if he had held himself to the same standards as Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera do.
Yogi Berra, of course, is an invaluable link to the Yankees’ history of success. There are way too many guys to acknowledge, but these are a few that stand out to me.
Hard to close…
It’s amazing to me how 2012 has been the Year of the Fallen Closers. So many closers on the DL (Rivera, Andrew Bailey, Drew Storen, etc.); so many demotions (Jordan Walden, Carlos Marmol, whoever is pitching for the White Sox, etc.); and guys who are on the brink of losing their jobs (most notable being Heath Bell). This is one of the only years in fantasy baseball where all my bench slots are filled with guys on the DL. But as they say, one guy’s misfortunate is another guy’s opportunity. Sports is about the ability to step up and take it to the next level.
Game of Stars…
I realize that Bryce Harper is only 19 but I am hopeful that he can find success at this level now rather than a return trip to the minor before he is ready. I can’t recall a player who has received as much hype (well, perhaps Stephen Strasburg) but I genuinely would like to see the player match (or even exceed) the hype. It is good for baseball. Robin Yount was in the majors by age 19 and I think he had a fairly successful career (<understatement). While I still question the signing of Jayson Werth, it is fun watching the accumulation of talent in DC. I am just glad they play in the NL and not the AL.
Where’s the caveat?…
When a pitcher throws a no-hitter like Jered Weaver did this week against the Minnesota Twins, they should come up with a degree of difficulty score. C’mon, it was the freakin’ Twins! It wasn’t like Weaver was facing the monster bats of Texas, New York, Tampa, Detroit, or Boston. So, while a no hitter is a great achievement, it’s hard not to discount Weaver’s performance.
What am I doing writing this post? I should be in line to buy my ticket to see The Avengers! Have a great weekend, everyone! J
CC Sabathia versus Justin
Larry W. Smith/EPA
Finally, Opening Day is upon
us! It has been a long and at times
disappointing off-season. Optimism
returned in Spring Training as there were a few success stories and
surprises. The pitching match-up for the
Yankees against the Detroit Tigers is perfect as I expect banner years by both
pitchers. They both will most likely be
finalists for the Cy Young Award at the end of the year if all goes right.
For Opening Day, here are the 2011 New York
Kevin Long, Batting Coach
Larry Rothschild, Pitching Coach
Mick Kelleher, First Base Coach
Rob Thomson, Third Base Coach
Tony Pena, Bench Coach
Mike Harkey, Bullpen Coach
Roman Rodriguez, Bullpen Catcher
1B – Mark Teixeira
2B – Robinson Cano
SS – Derek Jeter
3B – Alex Rodriguez
C – Russell Martin
RF – Nick Swisher
CF – Curtis Granderson
LF – Brett Gardner
DH – Jorge Posada
Bench – 1B/3B – Eric Chavez
Bench – 2B/SS/3B – Eduardo Nunez
Bench – OF – Andruw Jones
Bench – C – Gustavo Molina
1SP – CC Sabathia
2SP – A.J. Burnett
3SP – Phil Hughes
4SP – Ivan Nova
5SP – Freddy Garcia
Closer – Mariano Rivera
Setup – Rafael Soriano
RP – Joba Chamberlain
RP – David Robertson
RP – Boone Logan
RP – Bartolo Colon
RP – Luis Ayala
Several of the spots are held by injury replacements
(Molina for backup catcher Francisco Cervelli, and Ayala for reliever Pedro
Feliciano) so they’ll go down to the minors when the regulars return. I am sure that Freddy Garcia and Bartolo
Colon will be on short leashes, and it’s very possible that one of their spots
could be taken by Kevin Millwood should either one falter.
I am very pleased to see Eric Chavez on the
roster. It was a foregone conclusion
that he’d make the team after the spring he had, but going into camp, there
were certainly plenty of questions about his health and durability. I am sure that Jason Giambi has probably been
on the phone to his good buddy to let him know the inner workings of the
Yankees organization and the city of New York.
Congratulations to Manny Banuelos for winning the
James P. Dawson Award as the team’s outstanding rookie in camp. I am definitely looking forward to his
arrival in the Bronx, even if it is still a few years down the road.
Even though there were no major additions in the
off-season, I do like this year’s team.
The hiring of pitching coach Larry Rothschild was huge, and I think he’ll
be able to get into A.J. Burnett‘s head and rebuild the pitcher’s
confidence. I expect continued
progression from Phil Hughes, and if Ivan Nova continues to build upon his
outstanding spring, I think the Yankees rotation will be quite strong.
What can you say about the bullpen? They will definitely shorten games for the
As for the regulars, I expect Derek Jeter to
rebound from last year and put up his usual DJ-like numbers. Robinson Cano will continue his progression
of one of the game’s elite, and Alex Rodriguez looks charged and ready for a
fantastic season. I am expecting more
consistency and better timely hitting from Curtis Granderson this year, and if
Brett Gardner stays healthy, the outfield should be significantly
The health of Russell Martin is a concern,
particularly since neither Jesus Montero nor Austin Romine was able to prove
they are ready for the major leagues. If
the Yankees have to start Posada at catcher, it will definitely be a sign of
In my mind, the positives will outweigh the
negatives, and the Yankees will be in the hunt at the end.
Nevertheless, with all things considered, I do
think the league champions, as it stands right now, will be the Boston Red Sox
and the San Francisco Giants. A World
Series matchup would put the Sox over the Giants for the championship. This is not what I want, but rather, on
paper, it is the most logical conclusion.
Much can happen between now and October, and I certainly expect the
Yankees to acquire a #3 starter (or better) for the starting rotation by the
July trading deadline. I did like the
Philadelphia Phillies, but I think the loss of Chase Utley to injury and Jayson
Werth to free agency will be too much to overcome. Pitching staff to pitching staff, I like the
Giants rotation better than the Phillies.
Win or lose, this should be a tremendous baseball
season for all of us! Go ahead, throw
the first pitch…
It seems weird that the Yankees season is over with
the World Series set to begin tonight.
When I was a kid growing up in Iowa, there was a cartoonist who worked
for The Des Moines Register that used to say it wasn’t an official World Series
unless the Yankees were in it. I have
always believed those words! 😉
Seriously, it is interesting that we finally have a
World Series with two teams that do not have a history of World Series success. For the Texas Rangers, they’ve never been to
the World Series, and for the Giants, they’ve never won a World Series since
they moved to San Francisco although they have made a couple of trips. Given that I live in the Bay Area and the
Giants have generally been my preferred NL team over the years, I’ll be pulling
for them tonight as they embark on Game 1 against the Rangers.
There are no active Giants players with ties to the Yankees
organization, however, the Yankees do have a presence through the coaching
staff and back office. The two most
notable individuals are GM Brian Sabean who started in the
Yankees front office working for George Steinbrenner and pitching coach Dave Righetti. I always chuckle when I think of Rags as a
pitching coach. Please don’t get me
wrong. I think he’s a terrific coach and
he was a great player, however, when he was young…before he “made it” to the
big leagues for good, he used to struggle with his control. So, he was the guy who needed such intensive
coaching and now he is the master. I
lived in Dallas for 14 years and during many of those years, Rags was the
Yankees closer. So, I have so many
memories of Rags closing out games in Arlington, Texas. So, in many ways, he’ll be returning to an
area that he is well familiar with and has enjoyed success. Hopefully, he’ll be able to pass on that
success to Tim Lincecum and company.
Some of the other names in the Giants organization
who have past connections to the Yankees:
Roberto Kelly, First Base
I remember being upset when the Yankees traded
Kelly to the Cincinnati Reds for Paul O’Neill.
Ha! I think that trade worked out
well for the Yanks. Sorry Roberto…
Hensley Meulens, Batting Coach
I remember when “Bam Bam” was a much-hyped
youngster with so much promise. He never
achieved success with the Yanks and was eventually sold to a team in Japan.
Henry Cotto, Coordinator,
Cotto was a bench player for the Yankees during the
lean years (1985 to 1987). I think of
him more as a Chicago Cub although he only played one year for them
(1984). He had an undistinguished career
but he definitely could run.
Lee Smith, Coordinator,
Lee is obviously better known for his great years
with the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals, but he was with the Yankees in
1993 toward the end of his career. He
was a late season pickup and did well during his short stint even though the
Yankees did not that year.
J.T. Snow, Special Assistant
Snow, the son of former Los Angeles Rams great Jack
Snow, was originally drafted by the Yankees.
But he was traded in the deal that brought Jim Abbott to New York. He had some productive years for the Angels
but he achieved his greatest success with the Giants.
Dick Tidrow, Vice President,
Tidrow is definitely one of the more notable
Yankees as he played a very prominent role in the Yankees bullpen during their
two championships in the late 70’s. As a
kid growing up, he and Sparky Lyle were the faces of the bullpen.
Fred Stanley, Director, Player
Another player from those World Championship clubs
of 1977 and 1978, “Chicken” backed up shortstop Bucky Dent and was a valued
reserve during those years.
Joe Lefebvre, Senior Adviser,
Drafted by the Yankees, he only played for the team
one year (1980) before moving on to the San Diego Padres and Philadelphia
Phillies. However, he did play a part in
helping the Yankees win the AL East Division that year. I remember 1980 as the year the Yankees won
103 games but lost to the Kansas City Royals in the play-offs resulting in the
firing of late manager Dick Howser (back when George had a very itchy trigger
finger when it came to managers).
This “prayer” was making its rounds on email
yesterday. I do not know who the author
ors, as we forgive those who home run against us. Lead us not into defeat, but help us beat the
Rangers…with the help of the Beard, the Buster and
the Dirty Dozen.
Here’s hoping the former Yankees enjoy a World
Series championship in 2010!
As for the Yankees, they are apparently negotiating
a new 3-year deal with manager Joe Girardi.
I am glad to see that they are working to resolve Girardi’s situation
quickly so they can focus on the critical needs of the team. GM Brian Cashman acted very swiftly in
announcing that pitching coach Dave Eiland would not return. I have no issues with the decision. The Yankees starting pitching underperformed
this year, and A.J. Burnett and Javier Vazquez were the biggest reasons
why. I also think that Phil Hughes was
capable of more than he showed down the stretch. I am not sure who’d be the best candidate to
replace Eiland. Hey, I’d love to see
Dave Righetti back in New York but unfortunately he’s not going anywhere. Hopefully, Cashman and Girardi will be very
selective about who they chose for the very important role.
I saw this morning that CC Sabathia will be having
minor knee surgery. While this procedure
does not sound serious, I hope it is not indicative of the start of future
problems associated with CC’s weight.
This does show how critical it is for the Yankees to secure another ace
for the staff. Like everyone else, I am
strongly in favor of signing free agent to be Cliff Lee, however, I am very
dismayed at the reports of the poor treatment his wife received from the
Yankees fans during the ALCS at Yankee Stadium.
That type of abuse is completely unacceptable and it is an embarrassment
to be associated with those types of Yankee “fans”. I use the term “fans” very loosely because
those idiots are very poor representation of “fans”.
Hopefully, this does not keep the Lee’s from
considering an offer to join the Yankees.
I know it will be a tough, uphill battle to sign Lee as it is, and they
certainly did not need ill-treatment by the fans to give Mrs. Lee a strong
reason for not wanting to come to New York.
I want the core Yankees to return (Derek Jeter,
Mariano Rivera, and Andy Pettitte).
However, I do not feel that the Yankees should overpay to convince them
to stay. So, if it is time to sever
ties, I am prepared as I feel the money would be better served to help bring
younger, more talented (at this stage of their careers) to New York to help
pursue a championship in 2011. Of the
core, I think re-signing Mariano Rivera is the most vital. He is still performing at a top level,
although the Yankees would be well served to re-sign Kerry Wood if
possible. I don’t want Derek Jeter to
leave but at some point, he is going to start becoming a liability at
short. I’d rather see the team cut ties
before rather than after that happens. I
want Andy Pettitte to return, but I would not want to see high expectations
placed on him. Put him in the #4 or #5
spot in the rotation and be satisfied with the results if he decides to
return. I didn’t mention the last core
member, Jorge Posada, since he is still under contract. However, I am ready for a change at
catcher. Just like the Boston Red Sox
moved Jason Varitek to a reserve role, the Yankees should do the same with
Jorge. At 39, he is past his prime at
the catching position and now is the time for the highly heralded Jesus Montero
if he can show in spring training that he is ready for the job. If the Yankees do sign Cliff Lee, it would be
great to see Lee pitching to Montero since Montero would have been the cost of
a trade with Seattle to get Lee before they reneged and moved him to Texas.
As for the Hot Stove League rumors, I have to admit
that I am somewhat intrigued by the potential of bringing Jayson Werth to New
York to play right field. As much as I
like Nick Swisher, he is a streaky hitter and hasn’t shown the clutch bat in
October like Werth has. Of course, I
would love to have Carl Crawford in left, but I think right is a greater
need. I fully expect Brett Gardner to
continue to improve. Granted, he is no
Carl Crawford, but his speed is very disruptive on the bases and he showed a
much better ability to get on base this year.
Brian Cashman definitely has his work cut out for
him this off-season. It should be