“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
It was probably the most anticipated start in major league baseball for as many years as I can recall. I don’t remember a time when a rookie was as hyped as Stephen Strasburg was this year. I know the opponent was only the Pittsburgh Pirates, but it is still a team of major league players. Strasburg was brilliant despite the incredible pressure of high expectations. He matched the season high in strikeouts for any pitcher by striking out 14 batters (Max Scherzer of the Detroit Tigers struck out 14 on May 30th against the A’s). It was also the highest strikeout total in a pitching debut since James Rodney Richard of the Houston Astros in 1971 and Karl Spooner of the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1954. Strasburg went 7 innings until he was lifted for a pinch hitter, allowing only 4 hits and 2 runs. Matt Capps closed out the game to give Strasburg his first major league victory in his first major league start. I’d say expectations were met…
Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP
I am happy for the Washington Nationals and their fans. The Expos/Nationals have historically been the Los Angeles Clippers of Major League Baseball. Great baseball players have passed through the organization, but too often they achieved their greatest successes elsewhere. However, they’ve finally started to collect good, young talent and are the new Tampa Bay Rays. Their future is very bright, and Strasburg gives the team a leg up on everyone else. Five years from now, when many current stars will be fading or retired, Strasburg should be at the top of the heap with the Nationals, with an outfield that include 2010 #1 overall pick Bryce Harper, and primed for championships.
I have to admit that I was a bit disappointed with the Yankees first round selection in the 2010 MLB Draft. They selected a player that did not appear on any mock draft boards and wasn’t targeted to be selected until possibly the 4th or 5th round. When his name was read, an internet search yielded nothing. Cito Culver/RHP. I was surprised that the Yanks would go for a high school pitcher, but later reports indicated that his name was actually Christopher Culver (Cito is his nickname) and he was drafted as a shortstop. It’s possible that he may be Derek Jeter’s future replacement. Before the draft, I had heard that the Yankees had intended to go for the best player available. Given that Culver is a New York-area player, I am hopeful that the lack of praise for Culver is the product of a very astute Yankees scouting department and not simply a reach for a player with potential promise. Time will tell…
Mike Stobe/Getty Images
Oh yeah, the Yankees did play a game tonight. Granted, the Yankees generally struggle against lesser teams but the next two series involving the Baltimore Orioles and the Houston Astros should serve the team well as they start revving up the momentum for interleague play which ultimately leads to Dodger Stadium. Behind Phil Hughes, the Yankees defeated the O’s 12-7. Hughes’ performance wasn’t quite Strasburg-like, but it was enough to win his 8th game of the season. He only went 6 innings, giving up 9 hits but only 3 runs, and struck out 4. Kevin Millwood (0-7) continued his no-luck pitching for the O’s in taking the loss.
If it is possible to blow a 9-run lead, Chad Gaudin did his best to try. He allowed a two-run homer to Adam Jones in the 8th, and gave up a two-run scoring double in the 9th. Personally, I thought that Manager Joe Girardi let Gaudin pitch too long and if it were up to me, I would designate Gaudin for assignment after the game. Just like he did for Oakland, he has done nothing for the Yanks and is occupying valuable roster space.
Unfortunately, both the Boston Red Sox and the Tampa Bay Ray won so no ground was gained in the AL East standings.
Oh well, tomorrow is a new day! J
So much has been written about the vacancy in the Yankees’ starting rotation, but I still think it’s Phil Hughes’ job to lose…
The competition has been tough. The early leaders were Alfredo Aceves and Sergio Mitre, thanks to their consistently solid performances. However, in my mind, it’s always been Hughes. Aceves could go the entire spring without allowing an earned run and I’d still be behind Hughes for the 5th spot in the rotation. Aceves, for the record, was blasted for 5 runs in 4+ innings today in an 8-6 loss to the Houston Astros.
Keivom/NY Daily News
I know the Yankees invested much time trying to make Joba Chamberlain a starter. The “Joba Rules” date back to the Joe Torre era as the Yankees tried, albeit very cautiously, to build up Joba’s arm strength and stamina for 200 innings plus per season. But the truth is Joba is ideally suited for the bullpen. His make-up, demeanor, and approach is much more aggressive in a defined relief role. He has looked uncomfortable and at times lost as a starter.
My preference is for Aceves to resume his long relief role, Joba to set up Mariano Rivera (and spelling him on occasion), and Gaudin find his niche in the bullpen. Sergio Mitre has pitched well, but I’d try to trade him for a young prospect.
William Perlman/The Star Ledger
When making the decision for who will be the starter, you really have to project who has the best chance for long-term success. Regardless of who pitches the best in March, the winner needs to be someone who can give the Yankees the best chance for October success. The answer is obvious…Hughes.
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
Curtis Granderson was hit on the right hand in Friday night’s game, but it sounds like he’ll be fine and should be back in the lineup on Sunday. It’ll be just in time to see Phil Hughes nail the final spot in the starting rotation.
Julian H. Gonzalez/McClatchy
The talks of the Yanks’ interest in Joe Mauer reminds me of the talk we’ve heard in the past about the Yankees getting Carlos Beltran, Roy Halladay, Johan Santana, Matt Holliday, Aroldis Chapman et al. All smoke and no fire. As great as Mauer is, the Yankees do not need an injury risk at the catching position. I still think that Mauer will eventually land with the Boston Red Sox if the Minnesota Twins don’t re-sign him. Perhaps it will be a great move for the Sox, and Mauer will make fans forget Jason Varitek and Carlton Fisk. But I don’t he is a good fit for the Yankees. They’ll be fine with Jesus Montero, assuming that he doesn’t “out-grow” the position, as Jorge Posada’s eventual successor. If Montero does have to move because of his physical size, then I am willing to take my chances with Francisco Cervelli or Austin Romine.
Noah K. Murray/The Star Ledger
I am amazed that Jamie Moyer, at age 47, is on the verge of nailing down a spot in the rotation for the championship-contending Philadelphia Phillies. He is definitely the Energizer Bunny…
Lori M. Nichols
Personally, I think the Washington Nationals should have kept super-prospect Stephen Strasburg in the major league starting rotation. Nevertheless, I don’t think he should buy a house or sign a long-term lease in Harrisburg, PA. He won’t be there long…
As you know, I am not a fan of the Boston Red Sox (regardless of how much my friend Julia would like for me to be). However, I do want to send my prayers and best wishes to Ryan Westmoreland, Boston’s 19-year-old outfield prospect, who underwent successful brain surgery last week. He faces a tough road and a long recovery, but at least the initial news was promising. Let’s hope the news continues on its current positive, upward trend. Regardless of whether he ever plays baseball again, I will always be a fan of his in whatever he does. I only hope that it will be nothing short of complete and absolute recovery. Ryan, we are all on your team!
Ruben W. Perez/The Providence Journal
When I saw that the University of Northern Iowa had defeated top-seeded Kansas in the NCAA Basketball Tournament, I could only think of one thing…never underestimate the power of an Iowan! Signed, an Iowan. J
I am headed to Dallas for the week on business. I pulled up the weather forecast and was shocked that it was snowing in Dallas on the first day of spring! Meanwhile, in Boston, it was 71 degrees today! What’s up with that? And why do I have to leave this gorgeous, sunny California weather?…
The new and improved Yankees make their way to Beantown for a three-game series beginning tonight…
Fresh off a 5-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays, the Yanks find themselves a game up on the Red Sox in the AL East Standings. Of course, anything can happen over the next three days, but the stage is set for a major in-season battle for supremacy.
When they last played, New York was left with a 13-13 record after being swept in a two-game series in early May, Mark Teixeira was batting .198, and Alex Rodriguez was in Tampa in preparation of rejoining the team in Baltimore the following weekend. Since A-Rod has arrived, the Yankees have been on a tear. The Yankees record is now 34-23 and Mark Teixeira has improved his batting average to .286, with 18 home runs.
Mitsu Yasukawa/The Star Ledger
The team chemistry is better than I’ve seen in a number of years. A little Swish goes a long way…
Nick Laham/Getty Images
Of course, the usual rhetoric is taking place with the latest Yankees-Red Sox series. Tony Massarotti of the Boston Globe wrote a story called “A missed mark” and went as far as to say the Yankees’ signing of Mark Teixeira at the Red Sox expense “…could loom as a pivotal turning point in baseball’s fiercest division”. Teixeira is proving to be one of the best free agent signings ever by the Evil Empire. He has obviously been playing in a higher league for the last month, but taking him away from a bitter rival can never be understated. With Ortiz on the downslope, how much different would the Red Sox have looked with Tex at first and Kevin Youkilis at third? Julia will give you all the reasons for why it’s great to have Mike Lowell in the lineup, but clearly they would have been better with Tex and Youk at the corners. Fortunately, we’ll never know what could have been but rather what was meant to be…
Nick Laham/Getty Images
Julia seems pretty confident that I’ll be wearing a Jason Bay t-shirt by the end of the week. She also thought the Bruins were going to win the Stanley Cup and the Celtics were going to repeat as champions in the NBA. She also said that the Patriots wouldn’t trade Matt Cassel. So, when she says that the Red Sox will sweep the Yankees, I smile and wonder what she’ll look like wearing a Mark Teixeira t-shirt…
Like CC Sabathia said, “We’re pitching better, playing better defense obviously. Getting A-Rod back makes a huge difference. We’re a different team.” Yes, Julia, there is a Santa Claus…
Congratulations to the Washington Nationals for their selection of pitcher Stephen Strasburg as the number one pick in the First Year Player Draft. Granted, the pick had been anticipated for weeks, but I am hopeful to see Strasburg fulfill his tremendous promise.
In a departure from baseball talk, the Minnesota Vikings have given Brett Favre until the end of the week to decide if he’ll play in 2009. Favre had arthroscopic surgery on his throwing shoulder last month, and he still doesn’t know if he’ll be ready to resume his playing career. Meanwhile, the Favre family has blocked out 25 to 30 hotel rooms for the November weekend when the Vikings will be in Green Bay to play the Packers. Does it mean Favre will come out of retirement? Who knows. The family certainly has time to cancel the reservations. I have mixed feelings. I am all in favor of anything that would increase the Vikings chances for a 5th Super Bowl appearance. Is Favre better than Sage Rosenfels or Tavaris Jackson? If healthy, the answer is yes. But it was miserable to watch Favre the second half of last season. Is that the Favre we’d be destined to see? If so, I’d prefer he just stay in Mississippi and only make a trip to Green Bay to retire his number. Favre’s presence on the Vikings roster would probably cause the loss of John David Booty who has looked very much improved in this year’s OTA’s. That price is too high for a one year gamble…