Tagged: Thurman Munson

The Rivalry Resumes Tonight in the Bronx…

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Baseball’s Greatest Rivalry, sorry Dodgers-Giants, is back…

Yankees-Red Sox.  It doesn’t get any better than this. The two teams open tonight for a three-game set at Yankee Stadium in the continuing battles for the AL East. The season series is currently tied at three games apiece. The Sox took two of three at Fenway Park in April, and the Yanks countered with two of three in the Bronx during May. After this series, the teams will meet ten more times with the next series a four-game set in Boston which starts on the 39th anniversary of the death of legendary Yankees catcher Thurman Munson (August 2nd). I still miss Munson’s intensity in these Yankees-Red Sox games.

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I am disappointed in former Yankees Assistant General Manager Billy Eppler. The Los Angeles Angels GM has arguably the best baseball player in the World on his team and he can’t put other guys talented enough around Mike Trout to beat the Boston Red Sox. The Red Sox enter tonight’s series in the Bronx with a one-game advantage on the Yankees in the AL East. Boston swept their six-game season series with the Halos, thanks to a 4-2 win at Fenway Park yesterday. If the Angels could have taken just one of those games, the Yankees and Red Sox would be tied atop the AL East. I know, it’s still June. Don’t get worked up about the Standings. But, hey Billy, thanks for nothing. That’s literally what you gave us.

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I don’t know what I was more disappointed about. The lack of effort by the Angels against the Red Sox or the “throwaway game” that Aaron Boone served up on Wednesday when he started the underwhelming Luis Cessa against the Philadelphia and inserted the legendary hitless bat of Kyle Higashioka in place of the much better Austin Romine and also sat Aaron Judge even though the Yankees had Thursday off with a very short commute from Philly back to New York. I know that Cessa only let one hitter beat him but the three-run homer by Rhys Hoskins was all the Phillies needed to take down the Yankees on a night the offense was a no-show. In my opinion, Cessa is better used in limited relief appearances. I really wish the Yankees would quit giving him spot start assignments. He is no Domingo German or Jonathan Loaisiga and never will be.

I get wanting to push CC Sabathia back so that he could open the Boston series tonight but with Cessa’s loss, it didn’t really seem worth it. Sabathia draws a tough opposing pitcher this evening in the form of Eduardo Rodriguez who brings a 9-2 record into the game with a 3.86 ERA. It doesn’t get any easier for the Yankees tomorrow when they’ll throw out Sonny Gray (Sucks!) against Boston ace Chris Sale. The only pitching match-up that favors the Yankees this weekend is Sunday when Luis Severino (12-2, 2.10 ERA) takes on David Price (9-5, 3.66 ERA).

After Wednesday’s game, the Yankees optioned Cessa to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and will be recalling Brandon Drury today. Yay! I am very excited to see the Triple-A All-Star back in the Bronx. I like the options to use both Drury and Miguel Andujar at third and move Drury around the infield bags. I hope Drury is here to stay but I think he has at least one more trip to Scranton before he finishes his minor league career. If it was up to me, I’d pat Neil Walker on the back, thank him for his efforts, and send him on his way with bags in hand. Drury has greater long-term value for the Yankees and can easily meet or exceed current production.

The Boston Red Sox have baseball’s highest payroll and a decimated farm system thanks to Dave Dombrowski trades but it didn’t stop the Sox from trying to get better yesterday. They made a deal to acquire 35-year-old infielder/outfielder Steve Pearce from the Toronto Blue Jays for an infield prospect (Santiago Espinal) and cash considerations.  Toronto is apparently contributing $1.66 million toward Pearce’s contract to keep the Red Sox from entering the top tier of tax penalties. Pearce is effective when healthy, but health has been the issue. He has only played 26 games for the Blue Jays this season.  He had a memorable 2017 season when he blasted two walk-off grand slams within a week. He also provided the Jays with a walk-off homer against the Angels earlier this season. When Pearce puts on the Red Sox uniform, he will have worn the uniform for every AL East team  (he appeared in a dozen games for the Yankees early in the 2012 season). Everyone keeps saying the Yankees have the advantage over the Red Sox with a much deeper farm system to deal from, but it doesn’t seem to be holding back the Red Sox. Brian Cashman, your move.

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Photo Credit: Associated Press (Bill Kostroun)

There’s talk that the Texas Rangers could move Cole Hamels before the All-Star Game which will be held on Tuesday, July 17th, at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. The Yankees continue to be mentioned as a possible destination, along with Hamels’ old team, the Philadelphia Phillies. I think I still prefer J.A. Happ but I certainly would not complain if Cashman drops Hamels into the Yankees rotation. I know the Yankees have long been connected to Michael Fulmer of the Detroit Tigers but despite the youth and controllable years for the former Rookie of the Year, Fulmer just does not excite me. The Yankees had a scout present for his last start yesterday in Detroit against the Oakland A’s. Fulmer took the loss, pitching eight innings, giving up nine hits and four runs, in the A’s 4-2 victory. For the season, Fulmer is 3-7 with a 4.20 ERA for the 36-46 Tigers. Detroit is apparently asking for the moon and the stars in any trade for Fulmer. I do not feel that he is worth the price of Clint Frazier, Justus Sheffield, Albert Abreu and others. I am okay with short-term options to buy time for the young arms in the system to mature. I’d make an exception for Jacob deGrom but despite the noise that the Yankees and Mets are talking, I don’t think they’ll make a deal. It would be very hard for the Mets to watch their ace excel in the Bronx without getting top flight, Major League-ready talent in return.

Okay, Yankees. Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to win at least two of the next three games this weekend, and start next week in a dead heat with the Red Sox. If you want to sweep the Sox, please, by all means, go ahead. Good pitching and good hitting (plus some solid D). Let’s bring it. All I want to hear this weekend is Michael Kay yelling, “There it goes…see ya!” and to watch Aroldis Chapman shake hands with Austin Romine at the end of the games.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images (Elsa)

Go Yankees!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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It’s Time For Yankees Baseball…

 

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Photo Credit: New York Daily News (Corey Sipkin)

It’s a meaningless game but hey, our guys take the field…

As Yankees fans, we’ve had a few enjoyable days so far this Spring. Pitchers and Catchers reporting on February 13th and everybody else, including the great Giancarlo Stanton, showing up last weekend. We’ve already experienced our first newcomer of 2018 with the trade that brought Brandon Drury to Steinbrenner Field to work out with his favorite childhood baseball team. Stanton is not a “newcomer”, he’s been here since last year (okay, December but still, Drury was an Arizona Diamondback until a few days ago). Today represents the first exhibition game of the season when the Yankees face the Detroit Tigers this afternoon at Steinbrenner Field. The game will be televised by the YES Network at 1 pm Eastern so we’ll get our first true glimpse of the 2018 Yankees even if guys like Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez won’t be playing. Stanton will be there and is sure to attract a huge ovation.

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Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Butch Dill)

Twitter is crazy place to follow Yankees baseball. There are so many fans that feel Drury is going to block Miguel Andujar and are upset about it. Personally, I don’t get it. The starter at third base on Opening Day will be the guy who earned it. Drury may have the leg up based on MLB experience, but Andujar can take the position with performance. I certainly have no problem with Andujar going back down to Triple A to further refine his defensive skills. For a team that is considered among the American League’s elite, there is no need to experiment with multiple rookies in the lineup. I’ve always liked Drury and his hard-nosed play. He strikes me as quiet but very focused and determined. Considering that he won’t turn 26 until August, his best years are ahead of him. I like his upside, and all things considered, I am pleased the way this turned out. Instead of overpaying Mike Moustakas (regardless of how much I liked his left-handed bat in Yankee Stadium) or signing a player in decline like Neil Walker, the Yankees brought in a high energy guy that will mesh well with the team’s youth.

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Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Jonathan Dyer)

It’s worth checking out Drury’s play through YouTube. There are some great highlights shown including the time he crashed into the wall in right at Chase Field in Phoenix to record an out against the Yankees. It was good to see old friend Brian McCann as a Yankee in that clip.

I really like the way Drury has embraced Pinstripes. His words echo how much he appreciates being a part of the team and his recognition that this can be a special team. He left a team that had a very successful season last year and continues to be one of the stronger young teams in the National League, yet I’ve heard no words of remorse.

Many Yankees fans, at least on Twitter, have been livid that the Yankees traded outfielder Jabari Blash to the Los Angeles Angels for a player to be named later or cash because it basically represents no return for the deal that sent Chase Headley and Bryan Mitchell to the San Diego Padres. Nothing against Headley but the Yankees got the Padres to take his salary by including a pitcher that was at risk for losing his spot on the 40-man roster. I liked Mitchell but I think he stands a better chance for success in San Diego than he would have in the Bronx. Eliminating Headley’s contract has given the Yankees a genuine chance to reset the luxury tax penalties which meets Owner Hal Steinbrenner’s objective. If Hal is happy, I am happy. Blash was never going to be a difference-maker for the Yankees. He was an excess outfielder on a team filled with quality outfielders. He became a 40-man roster casualty candidate from the moment he joined the Yankees. Maybe he becomes a late bloomer with the Angels. That’s fine, he would have never gotten the opportunity with the Yankees. I remain convinced the Headley/Mitchell deal was a good one even if all it brought us was a box of Dunkin Donuts. Plus, I am glad that we have Brandon Drury (or Miguel Andujar) at third over Headley.

While I am not trying to date myself, the subject of firsts made me think of the first regular season game that I experienced as a Yankees fan. The date was April 8, 1975 and the Yankees were in Cleveland to face the Indians. Sadly, the Yankees lost that day, 5-3. The starting lineup featured the following players that I remember well:

Sandy Alomar (Senior), 2B

Lou Pinella, LF

Bobby Bonds, CF

Ron Blomberg, RF

Graig Nettles, 3B

Ed Hermann, DH

Chris Chambliss, 1B

Thurman Munson, C

Jim Mason, SS

Doc Medich was the starter and loser. Future, now former, Yankee Gaylord Perry was the winner for the Tribe. The Indians lineup included Oscar Gamble (a personal favorite who recently passed away), Frank Robinson, George Hendrick, Buddy Bell, and a former Yankee at catcher, John Ellis.  Robinson and Boog Powell homered for the Indians in the victory. The Yankees didn’t pick up their first win until the fourth game of the season when Doc Medich’s turn in the rotation came up again. Medich was the winner in the Yankees’ 6-0 victory over the Detroit Tigers. It’s good to see these names again (at least for me) so pardon the self-indulgence with the trip down Memory Lane.

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Back to today’s game, here is the starting lineup for your New York Yankees:

Jacoby Ellsbury, DH

Giancarlo Stanton, RF

Greg Bird, 1B

Aaron Hicks, CF

Didi Gregorius, SS

Gleyber Torres, 2B

Austin Romine, C

Miguel Andujar, 3B

Clint Frazier, LF

The starting pitcher is Luis Cessa but also pitching today (thanks to Brendan Kuty of NJ.com) are Cale Coshow, J.P. Feyereisen, Giovanny Gallegos, David Hale, Ben Heller, Jonathan Holder (I wanted to type Kyle), Brady Lail, and Trevor Lane.

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Photo Credit: New York Yankees

Go Yankees!

The Dawn of the New Season…

It seems like we were just getting excited about pitchers and catchers reporting to training camp.  Now, here we are at the end of the Grapefruit League season and awaiting the first pitch to start the 2017 MLB season.

It was a very successful Spring for the Yankees.  It was far better than I could have imagined.  Heading into Spring, we were concerned about Greg Bird.  He hit well late in the 2015 season but missed most of last year due to his shoulder injury.  There was doubt about how he would perform and if the shoulder would hold him back like, say, the way Mark Teixeira’s wrist did.  Bird smashed any concerns that he is ready.  I know that Spring stats do not really mean much, but Bird led the Yankees with 8 home runs and was second on the team behind Gary Sanchez with 15 RBI’s.  He played first base like a veteran and by all accounts, he is posed to be a future star in New York.  I’ve always thought of Bird as a professional hitter and not one who will be susceptible to prolonged slumps.  I am very glad to see that he is ready to fly (no pun intended).

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Credit:  John Raoux, AP

What can you say about Gary Sanchez?  He continued the great success from last Fall without missing a beat.  His bat delivered (5 homers and 16 RBI’s), and do did his arm (.983 fielding percentage in 102 innings worked, with a sub .500 stolen base percentage against him as he threw out 6 runners while only allow 4 SB’s).  He is arguably the most exciting Yankees catcher since Jorge Posada or to place him higher, Thurman Munson.  Good times ahead for the catching position, no doubt.

Aaron Judge held off Aaron Hicks to win right field in the Battle of Aarons.  I feel bad for Hicks because I know that he needs to play every day to be successful.  It’s hard to get into rhythm with limited, spot starts.  But I would have been very disappointed to see Hicks get the right field job over Judge.  At this point, sending Judge down to Triple A serves no purpose.  He has proven himself at that level.  He needs to master the Major Leagues and he can only do that by being here and playing every day.  His ceiling, if successful, is so much greater than Hicks.  Dating back to the days of Reggie Jackson and Dave Winfield, I love powerful right fielders at Yankee Stadium.

If I was the General Manager of the Yankees, Brett Gardner would be living in a different zip code.  Nothing against Gardner, he’s been a good Yankee but his best days are behind him.  He needs to open the way for younger guys.  I’d prefer to start Hicks in left over Gardner, so I’d find a way to move Gardy even if the return is not ideal.  The perfect scenario would be to trade Jacoby Ellsbury and move Gardner to center, but that’s not going to happen with nearly $90 million left on Ellsbury’s contract.

In the starting rotation, Luis Severino won the fourth spot but it was not an overpowering Spring performance.  Last year, Severino chased his first win as a starter without success (he picked up a few wins in the bullpen but was 0-8 in his starts).  I really hopeful that we do not go weeks or months trying to get that elusive first win this year.  Severino has so much potential but he still leaves so many wondering if his stuff plays better out of the pen.  It would be nice if he could prove those naysayers wrong (including me) to become a vital part of the rotation.

Manager Joe Girardi has delayed his decision for a fifth starter.  With three scheduled off days during April including two days in the first week, a fifth starter is not needed until Sunday, April 16th at home against the St Louis Cardinals.  Of the competitors for the fifth spot, only Bryan Mitchell made the Opening Day roster as a reliever.  Chad Green will go down to AA Trenton while Jordan Montgomery will go to AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.  Both Green and Montgomery will have early April starts in the minors for further auditions.  I am sure that Mitchell will get some audition opportunities through long relief.  Mitchell had been my favorite for the rotation but Jordan Montgomery changed my mind.  So, I am hopeful that Montgomery gets the call-up when it is time for the fifth starter.

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Credit:  Associated Press

I was glad to see Chasen Shreve make the Opening Day roster as the second lefty behind Tommy Layne.  Well, technically the third but Aroldis Chapman doesn’t really count since he’s on the mound at the end of games regardless of who is at the plate.  When the Yankees toyed with the minor league signings of Ernesto Frieri and Jon Niese, I was fearful that Shreve would be one of the odd men out.  Perhaps he still is given the Yankees’ propensity for the using the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre shuttle to keep the bullpen fresh.  Another young reliever I am happy for is Jonathan Holder.

Utility player Ronald Torreyes won the interim shortstop role while Didi Gregorius begins the year on the Disabled List.  I am not excited about Torreyes in an every day role, but there were limited internal options.  The Yankees will make room on the 40-man roster to bring up Pete Kozma to back up Torreyes, but Kozma has no bat.  It did not make sense for the Yankees to trade for a shortstop since Didi will be back by the end of April or early May, and, unfortunately,  prospect Tyler Wade is not quite ready.  I also didn’t want to see the Yankees slide Starlin Castro back to short.  He is still relatively inexperienced at second and needs to continue his work at the position.  The Yankees obviously agreed as they never played Castro at short during training camp.  Many thought the Yankees should have slid Castro to short to allow Rob Refsnyder to start at second.  I am not sure that Refsnyder, for whatever reason, will ever get a legitimate chance in the Bronx.  He was sent down to AAA for the start of the season with earlier reports that he was on the trading block.

I am not expecting this to be a playoff year for the Yankees.  They could surprise and nab a Wild Card spot but I don’t think this is their year to unseat the Boston Red Sox as AL East Champions.  They are still a year or two away from being a legitimate World Series contender.  I do think this will be a more exciting team than last year’s team from beginning to end.  The Baby Bombers proved that last year when the deadline deals moved Chapman to the Cubs and Andrew Miller to the Cleveland Indians, and Alex Rodriguez was released.  It was only a preview of the excitement and energy the younger players can bring, which is further enhanced by the presence of Greg Bird this year.

Despite the quick arrival of the regular season, I am ready.  Play ball!…

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Sticks and Stones may break my bones…

Some words are better left unsaid…

I was disappointed that the Yankees could not reach agreement with Dellin Betances before proceeding with the arbitration hearings.  It’s never good when a player has to sit in a room to hear about his faults.  It’s hard to walk away without some residual adverse impact.  Once it was determined there was no common ground, the Yankees cannot be faulted for allowing the arbitration to proceed.  It is just a very unfortunate situation.

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Credit:  Andrew Savulich, The New York Daily News

The Yankees, based on prior arbitration cases, were probably fairly confident they would prevail.    The gap of $2 million may not have seemed to be great, but in terms of the dollars it could eventually cost the Yankees on new deals with Betances or the precedent it would have set could have been very costly in the grand scheme of things.

Yet, it was absolutely out of line for Yankees President Randy Levine to gloat after the arbitrators announced Betances would be paid the Yankees offer of $3 million rather than his request for $5 million.  Levine’s comments that Dellin’s $5 million request was “over the top” and “not based on reality” were unnecessary and ultimately inflammatory.  If Betances had any lingering hard feelings before, they’ve multiplied.  Given Levine’s extensive background in Labor Law, I am very surprised that he’d make those type of comments.  The words do seem out of character for a Labor attorney.  I’ve never been a big fan of Levine’s but it’s hard to dismiss his accomplishments which included work at the U.S. Department of Justice during the Reagan administration, former Labor Commissioner for New York City, and MLB’s chief labor negotiator during the negotiations for the 1996 MLB Labor Agreement.

So, maybe that’s why the unnecessary words that Levine spoke yesterday hurt even more.  He, more than anyone, should have known better.  There was no value in attacking Dellin’s attorneys, and the long-term impact is only harmful.  If Dellin eventually walks away when free agency arrives, we’ll be able to look back at this day as the first nail in the coffin.

There are some guys in the Yankees executive management team that you want to keep away from talking to the media.  Yankees co-owner Hank Steinbrenner is one, but you can certainly add Levine to the list.  Levine has been the Yankees president since 2000 but maybe it’s time to bring in a younger, more open-minded replacement.  If I owned the Yankees, I would probably promote Brian Cashman to President, Baseball Operations, hire a new general manager, and show Levine the door.

Goose being Goose…

Every spring, Rich “Goose” Gossage shows up and makes statements that sound like he’s been smoking too much weed in Colorado.  His remarks in training camp that he cannot be compared to “one inning” closers like Aroldis Chapman and Mariano Rivera was absurd to say the least.

Nevertheless, I felt Brian Cashman’s comments were perfect when he said that he had more important things to think about like drinking his cup of coffee and working on his tan.  That’s exactly how I take anything Goose has to say.

I loved the guy when he was the Yankees closer, and he was arguably my favorite Yankee (after the unfortunate loss of the beloved Thurman Munson).

Goose is only trying to draw reactions with his words.  He played during a different time, and it’s very hard to compare the challenges he faced in the 70’s and 80’s to modern times.  The game has evolved.  Despite nearly 500 more career innings than Rivera, Goose had barely more than half of the total career saves.  Goose was a great Yankee for 6 years.  Rivera was a great Yankee for 19 years.  Rivera’s number (42) would have been retired even if MLB hadn’t retired the number league-wide for the great Jackie Robinson.  Last time I checked, Goose’s number (54) is neatly placed on the back of current closer Aroldis Chapman.

Goose just needs to enjoy his time in Florida before he hops on a plane to travel back to his favorite Cannabis shop in Colorado Springs…

–Scott

Life as a Yankees fan…

42 Years…

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My interest in Baseball began in my childhood like most fans.

I can remember NFL Football as the first sport I discovered but my passion and love for Major League Baseball started a few years later and quickly rose to favored status.

I consider 1972 as the year I started following Football with close interest.  That’s the year I became a fan of Fran Tarkenton and the Minnesota Vikings.  I was aware of Football in the immediate preceding years, but my father died in early 1972 at the age of 42.  I found the Vikings gave me something to focus on as I processed my grief.

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Along this same time period, I started following the Oakland A’s.  In the 1970’s, they were a very colorful team with a unique owner and a collective cast of characters that were routinely championship caliber.  But the one player that stood out to me was A’s starting pitcher Jim “Catfish” Hunter.  As a North Carolina farmer, fisherman, and general outdoor enthusiast, Catfish had a very easy and engaging personality to go with the fantastic arm.

During the 1974 season, Catfish finished 25-12, with a 2.49 ERA, while winning the AL Cy Young Award.  Meanwhile, the A’s were winning their third consecutive World Series championship.

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I had been aware of the perfect game that Catfish had thrown during the 1968 season and it was easy to identify with him as my favorite active player.

One of the very first books that I read was a biography about Yankees legend Lou Gehrig so I naturally carried positive feelings about the Pinstripers and their rich, legendary history.

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This set the stage for December 31, 1974.  After aggressive pursuit by the majority of the MLB teams, Catfish, a free agent, signed a five-year contract with the New York Yankees.

I remember feelings of disappointment that the A’s had allowed Catfish to become a free agent and could not envision myself as an A’s fan without him on the mound despite their recent history of success.

So, on the day Catfish signed with New York, I officially decided to become a Yankees fan.  The team had struggled during the preceding decade but my preference was to follow Catfish, even with a potentially losing team, over continuing to root for the A’s.

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From that day forward, I have never looked back as the Yankees have been my team ever since.

After a couple of years, catcher Thurman Munson replaced Catfish as my favorite baseball player but the love of the Yankees deepened with each passing year.

I will always credit Lou Gehrig for creating my positive perception of the Pinstripes, and Catfish Hunter for bringing it all together.

42 has multiple meanings for me.  It is the number  of years I’ve been a Yankees fan, it was the number of years my father walked the Earth, it is the symbol of one of Baseball’s greatest players (Jackie Robinson), and the number of one of my all-time favorite Yankees (Mariano Rivera).

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Today, December 31, 2016, I look back on the many great memories (the tremendous victories and the heartbreaking losses) the Yankees have provided, and look forward to the the bright future and continuation of the success of Baseball’s most storied franchise.

I am grateful to be a Yankees fan…

–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

 

None of it makes any cents…

Wells, that was not quite the answer I was looking for…

I have never been a big fan of Los Angeles Angels outfielder Vernon Wells, and was one of many who quietly laughed when the Angels took his financial albatross of a contract off the hands of the Toronto Blue Jays.  But I guess it is apparently better to have the last laugh and that would not be me.  The move allowed the Blue Jays to re-group to the point that they now have arguably the best team in the American League East.  And, as health would have it (or lack there of), the Yankees find they have the need to take what’s left of Wells off the Angels hand so that they can pay those hefty contracts belonging to Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton.  Granted, the Angels will be paying most of the freight to bring Wells to the Bronx (assuming the deal goes through as expected), but he has been the Crown Prince of Disappointment for so many years.  Yes, he’s had a good spring, but so have a lot of guys who didn’t amount to a hill of beans in the big leagues.

At first I heard that the Yankees would be paying less than $10 million on the Wells contract which has $42 million more to go until it expires following the 2014.  But the latest word has the Yankees paying up to $13 million which means it will probably be more like $15 million or more when the deal is finally announced.

With the opening day absences of Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson, Alex Rodriguez, and Mark Teixeira, the Yankees need proven production in the lineup.  Robinson Cano is only one man.  There’s question marks at every turn, but the likelihood of Curtis Granderson’s return is far better than Mark Teixeira (who some say could miss the season).  This means I would have preferred to see the Yankees allocate resources toward an alternative first baseman.  The prospect of outfielder Juan Rivera playing first on a full or part-time basis is just not very satisfying for me.

But speaking of first base, the only talk I hear is the potential acquisition of first baseman Lyle Overbay from the Boston Red Sox.  Overbay can opt out of his deal this week and that would put him at the forefront of Yankees’ attention.

None of these acquisitions will give anyone illusions of a championship.

At some point, the Yankees are going to have to just blow it up and start over…

This is the time of hard cuts.  I saw today that the Cleveland Indians cut Daisuke Matsuzaka.  Okay, I don’t consider that a hard cut, but there will be notable names mentioned in the coming days.  It is hard to believe that the Yankees will be powering up Yankee Stadium just one short week from tomorrow.  As for the Yankees, I remain hopeful that both Ben Francisco and Brennan Boesch will travel north with the club despite the apparent acquisition of Vernon Wells.  While I’ve been pulling for Boesch, I have to say that Francisco has played well enough to start at least as part of a platoon.  I seriously doubt that Travis Hafner and Kevin Youkilis will make it through the season injury-free so at some point, Wells will probably start to take the majority of the at-bats at DH.

I guess there should be plenty of drama this week as MLB teams shape up their opening day rosters.

It’s just a number…

As a Minnesota Vikings fan, I am still trying to wrap my head around Greg Jennings playing for the Vikings.  After Darren Sharper, Ryan Longwell, and Brett Favre, I should be used to this.  Jennings may not have the athleticism of departed slot receiver Percy Harvin, but if healthy, he is a weapon.  It’s interesting that he selected #15.  I can’t say that I can remember another Viking who wore the number although I am sure a few have.  Of course, #15 for me is always going to be Thurman Munson but that’s a different sport.  Greg Childs currently holds Jennings’ Packer number, #85.  After missing his first season due to injury, I can’t say that his grasp on #85 is very strong.  Perhaps Jennings is just biding his time until he can retrieve #85.  Childs’ childhood friend and lifelong teammate, Jarius Wright, is clearly the favorite to fill Harvin’s role.

Decisions…

Part of me wants the Vikings to sign former Chicago Bears middle linebacker Brian Urlacher, but of course, the sensible part of me only wants guys that can be part of the future as the door is starting to open for the Vikings again as a play-off contender.  I would like to see the Vikings to find a way to bring Antoine Winfield back to purple and gold.  I have faith in the younger guys and GM Rick Spielman has shown that he knows a thing or two about the NFL Draft so I am sure the secondary will be addressed next month.  I am anxious to see what Josh Robinson is capable of, but it would be nice to have Winfield to help the transition.

Hey Zygi…

I like the job that Leslie Frazier has done with the Vikings and I am hopeful that it will lead to a long-term contract.

Next month is a big sports month.  Opening day in Major League Baseball and the NFL Draft.  It should be a very fun time.  And for my friends in the East and Midwest, it should mean a little less snow…

–Scott