The Yankees played a spirited game of long ball yesterday, smacking a total of five home runs en route to beating the Texas Rangers 12-5, taking the weekend series in Arlington.
The offensive explosion was capped with a six-run eighth inning. Four of those six runs came off the bat of Francisco Cervelli, who clobbered a grand slam home run to straight away centerfield. It was only Cervelli’s second career home run (his first came in June 2009 against Atlanta).
Mark Teixeira supplied the power for the other two runs in the eighth, clubbing a two-run homer following Cervelli’s slam. It marked Teixeira’s ninth home run on the year.
Curtis Granderson also went yard, his 11th home run of the year. Granderson now leads the American League in home runs, his swing reinvented. It’s safe to say Granderson, who clipped together a 30-homer year in 2009, has a legitimate chance to do it again this year.
But the real home run story of the day was Derek Jeter. The Captain, who had no home runs coming into yesterday’s game, went deep twice; two solo home runs, one in the fifth and the other in the seventh.
Jeter has now hit safely in eight of his last 10 games and has pushed his season average up to a somewhat respectable .276. The Captain is also 40 hits away from joining the exclusive 3,000 hits club, sitting on 2,960 hits for his career.
Scott Stanford, a sports anchor for WNBC New York who covers the Yankees, tweeted, “Jeter! The guy dates numbers 2-7 on Maxim’s Hot 100 List, has more money than some countries, 5 Titles, and just when you think he’s done…”
I couldn’t agree more. He had a Renaissance or a rebirth; it was shades of old for the Captain, swinging the bat like he did when he was younger. Jeter was, what you could call, the Renaissance man yesterday. However, what most people sometimes fail to understand is that the term Renaissance man has a certain meaning and connotation.
“Renaissance man” is used to describe a person who is well-educated, and excels at a wide variety of subjects or fields. There’s no question, the Yankee Captain fits that description.
There is no need to explain Jeter’s numerous accomplishments on the baseball diamond. They speak for themselves. I could go on all day listing every title and every award he has ever won.
But his love life; as Stanford elegantly said, “The guy dates numbers 2-7 on the Maxim Top 100 list.” There is certainly a level of success when you consider every model and every beautiful woman Jeter has been romantically linked to.
That, to me, is what makes him a Renaissance man.
Like his titles and accolades, it’s like a broken needle (pointless) listing every woman the Captain has dated. From Mariah Carey to Vanessa Minnillo; from Jessica Biel to Jessica Alba, the man has been with the best of them.
But now, in the final years of his career, has he finally settled down with one?
Minka Kelly has been Jeter’s girlfriend since May 2008. By my estimation, of all the Jeter girls, she has been with him for the longest amount of time. Rumors swirled in January of 2010 the two were going to wed in November after the season ended, but Kelly told GQ Magazine that “she wasn’t tying the knot anytime soon.”
The Editor-in-Chief of Hollywoodlife.com said of Kelly, “It’s clear she is devoted to him (Jeter). She goes to probably every game of his that her schedule allows. Being a celebrity herself, she’ll understand the pressures of fame. It’s helpful when you’re as under the spotlight as Derek Jeter is, to have a girlfriend who does understand what that’s like.”
Here is my interpretation:
They will get married, but not until he is done playing.
This month marks their fourth year together and after this year, Jeter only has two years (potentially three) left on his contract with the Yankees. I think they will remain together for those final two or three years and when he retires, they will go to the altar and say “I do” to one another.
Right now, Jeter just doesn’t have enough time to be a husband. The baseball season starts in April (in this year’s case late March) and ends in September. The Yankees are usually playing in the postseason in October, giving Jeter another month of work.
During the months of the off-season, Jeter probably has time for her; I’m sure they spend Christmas and Thanksgiving together and with their respective families.
But just because it’s the off-season, it doesn’t mean he isn’t working.
Jeter has his Turn 2 Foundation, a philanthropic endeavor he set up to help kids stay away from drugs and alcohol. He wanted to reward kids who turned away from drugs and alcohol and chose healthy lifestyles. The Turn 2 Foundation also features programs that reward kids for excelling in academic studies and extracurricular activities.
The Captain has to attend a number of events his foundation puts on. Most of those events, in all likelihood, go on during the off-season when Jeter has time.
Not only that, but he (and every player, for that matter) needs to go to the gym to prep for Spring Training, which starts in February. Jeter must keep his body in shape for the season; especially at his age of 36 (he will turn 37 on June 26 this year). Maintaining a good body is a huge part of an athlete’s life, and Jeter is no exception.
Even when he isn’t working, he’s working. And it goes both ways.
Kelly is an actress and a model. As the Editor of Hollywoodlife.com said, “She goes to as many of his games as her schedule allows.” Undoubtedly she is just as busy as he is. Photo shoots and time in front of the camera make up her schedule at this point in her life.
When Jeter retires there’s no telling what he will do. He has said he will never be a manager; he has no desire to lead a team in that way. As Captain of the Yankees he leads by example and a manager cannot go out and play the game for the team.
Broadcasting? Doubtful. Jeter has always been a soft-spoken individual; he has never been all that critical or analytical of anything he or the team does. I cannot picture him sitting in a broadcast booth looking out at the infield dirt of Yankee Stadium, knowing the fans in the seats once worshipped him while he stood there.
Perhaps he will continue with his Turn 2 Foundation and continue to pursue philanthropy. He can also serve as a special instructor or advisor to the Yankees – just as some other Yankee greats such as Reggie Jackson and Yogi Berra do.
Whatever he does, I get the feeling he will find work. And when he is finished with his daily grind, the Captain will be able to come home and utter that oh-so-familiar phrase, and that question all spouses ask, to Kelly:
“Honey, I’m home. So, how was your day?”
A lot to feel good about tonight for the Yankees, as they routed the White Sox 12-3 to a series split.
Already leading 2-0 heading into the fifth, the Yankees’ bats came alive and they scored six runs in the frame. It began with a home run by Brett Gardner and it all snowballed from there.
Curtis Granderson tripled, Nick Swisher and Robinson Cano both singled, Alex Rodriguez doubled, Eric Chavez was intentionally walked, Russell Martin singled and Jorge Posada reached base on a walk. They sent 12 batters to plate in the fifth, which lasted 32 minutes.
The brightest sign for the Yanks was Swisher, who went 3-for-4 tonight with a home run (his first of the year), four RBIs, and three runs scored. The right fielder was 0 for his last 19 coming into the game, but came out of his slump with a solid night at the plate.
CC Sabathia gave the Yanks a nice outing: seven innings pitched, seven hits, three runs (none of them were earned), one walk, and six strikeouts. For his efforts, he picked up his second win of the year and the big man lowered his ERA to 2.25.
Sabathia was countered by Edwin Jackson, who no-hit the Yankees through the first four innings.
But don’t let the words “no-hit” fool you. He didn’t have it.
Jackson walked four straight batters in the third inning to give up a run, followed by allowing a sacrifice fly to Cano to give the Yankees a 2-0 lead, despite not giving up a hit.
Gardner’s homer to start the huge fifth inning was the Yanks’ first hit.
But enough about tonight’s squash of the ChiSox and onto the reason I am writing.
In the first inning of yesterday’s game, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen was run by home plate umpire Todd Tichenor after arguing a questionable called strike three on Paul Konerko; the ball was low and inside but the ump rung Konerko up.
The Chicago skipper argued, was thrown out, then continued to scream at the ump as he walked off the field and into the tunnel on the way to the clubhouse.
What did he do next? Well, he tweeted. Twice. First:
This one is going to cost me a lot of money. This is patetic.
Today a tough guy show up at Yankee Stadium.
Major League Baseball is now reviewing his tweets, as they maintain a policy that prevents employees (including players and coaches) from making disparaging remarks about umpires.
And here is where social media and networking can get ugly.
When I first heard about Twitter, I had absolutely no desire to create an account. I was only interested in Facebook as a means to connect with my friends, family, and classmates. A friend of mine kept telling me about all of the celebrity activity on Twitter as well as all of the famous athletes who have verified accounts.
He kept nagging me and nagging me until I finally gave in and created a Twitter. At first I had no idea how to use it; I just started following all the celebrities and athletes I like, not knowing how to communicate using Twitter.
Finally I got the hang of it and figured out how to use the @mention function.
When I did get to know how to use Twitter, I tried to garner some attention. It worked, a little bit. I tweeted a Yankee Yapping investigation to ESPN baseball insider and former Yankee beat writer Buster Olney, and he re-tweeted it, in other words posting it for his followers to see.
Another former beat writer and current YES Network analyst Jack Curry is another person who has re-tweeted me; I asked him some questions and he responded to me.
During a tweet-driven Q & A session with Yankee catcher Russell Martin, I asked him what his walkup music is when he comes to bat. He answered me, saying he hadn’t yet chosen it and he would let the fans choose the song soon.
I even got a re-tweet from Comedy Central comedian and TV show host Daniel Tosh. In terms of reaching out to (and possibly hearing back from) celebrities and pro athletes, Twitter can be pretty cool.
Yet, like in Guillen’s case, it can hurt you. Anything negative you post on the internet or in an open forum, such as Twitter or Facebook, can be damaging to your reputation. There are people who have gotten fired from their jobs because of content posted on the internet. Kids have gotten in trouble in school for things they have posted on such sites.
The bottom line is, you have to be careful in terms of what you post. There are ways to protect your tweets and posts, but obviously Guillen didn’t and now it will cost him.
Another aspect about Twitter I find fascinating (and in a lot of ways scared of) is how often reporters tweet. Every Yankee beat writer tweets before the game, during the game, and after the game. They usually talk about what’s happening in the clubhouse, what’s going on with daily news, injury updates, and numbers.
All of this raises the question: is this hurting or helping the journalism industry? Is this what’s in store for the long future? Instead of game recaps and numbers from the box score, are we just going to be reading old tweets?
It’s pretty scary to think Twitter could impact the sports journalism industry in a huge way.
Even right now, in the high school sports reporting game (in which I’m currently playing), Twitter is a huge commodity. Sometimes I’m asked by former editors to tweet them the final scores of the games I’m covering, just to get them out there. I can only hope by the time I start covering professional sports I am not being asked to just tweet the game. I would rather show off my unique writing skills than my tweeting skills.
Also as a reader, I would rather read an educated game recap and be taken through the game than simply look up old posts on a writer’s Twitter account.
Not saying it will come to that, but you never know. In this ever-changing environment and the dominance of digital and social media, who knows what the future holds for sports writing.
If you want to follow me on Twitter, my username is @AJ_Martelli.
I oftentimes tweet about the Yankees; that should come as no shock. However, I tweet whimsical sayings, movie and TV quotes, and lots of phrases that have absolutely no context if you’re not with me when I tweet them. And in doing that, I garner the attention of random people.
So be forewarned.
He’s finished. He’s washed up. He’s through. He’s a loser. Why bother with this guy?
All things some current Yankees have probably heard over the past couple of years. But right now, no one is saying any of these things. Right now the Yankees are in first place in the American League East, mostly because of the players who were taken off the so-called scrap heap.
I’ll begin with the obvious: Bartolo Colon.
Tonight he played the role of stopper, pitching eight strong innings en route to a 3-1 Yankee win over the Chicago White Sox, ending a two-game losing skid. Colon worked effectively, throwing 99 pitches, striking out six and only issuing one walk.
He only allowed one earned run, an RBI single in the sixth inning from Adam Dunn which plated Carlos Quentin. Other than that hiccup, Colon was masterful. He worked out of a bases loaded, no out jam in the second inning and his fastball had both life and movement, topping out on the speed gun at 96 mph.
So far Colon is 2-1 with an ERA of 2.77 and honestly, who expected this from him?
Probably not many people.
It’s still early in the season, and Colon has not logged more than 200 innings since 2005, the year he won the A.L. Cy Young Award. In 2007 he tossed 99 1/3 innings, but only registered 39 innings the following year. In 2009 he only threw 62 1/3 innings.
The question has to be asked: can his arm hold up for the rest of the year?
Time will tell. If he continues to pitch as effectively as he has this month for the rest of the season, the Yankees will not have a problem. However if the season rolls along and his velocity goes down, his pitches lose life and they fall flat, the Yankees may have to take action.
But they will cross that bridge when they get there. For now, the Colon signing is looking as if it was the right move. Bench Coach Tony Pena managed him over the winter and recommended him to the front office.
At the moment, Pena deserves a vast amount of credit.
Another signing the Yankees made during the off-season, which right now is paying off, was the acquisition of Freddy Garcia.
Although Garcia hasn’t gotten a lot of mound time, he has made two starts and is 1-0 with a 0.69 ERA. On April 16 he beat a powerful Texas Ranger team, pitching six innings and giving up no runs on just two hits. He only walked one and struck out one, but he made a statement with that game:
“I’m for real and I can still pitch.”
On April 24 he certainly pitched good enough to win, befuddling the Orioles for six innings and not allowing a run while giving up just two hits. He walked two but fanned seven. The Chief did not pick up the win, as the combined efforts of Mariano Rivera and Joba Chamberlain weren’t enough to handle the O’s in the late innings.
The Yanks did win the game though, 6-3 in 11 innings.
Garcia still has a little bit to prove because he only has two starts under his belt in this early season. But both starts have been of the quality variety and he has demonstrated decent control and good command of his pitches.
Another signing paying dividend: Eric Chavez.
Some analysts called having Chavez on the bench a “luxury” being that he is a former Silver Slugger winner (2002) and a six time Gold Glover winner (2001-06). Again, he hasn’t had a lot of playing time (12 games played) but he is making it count when he does play.
So far Chavez is batting .348 (8-for-23) with two doubles, three RBIs, and four runs scored. He has also done a pretty good job playing defense, as he made a nice bare-handed play at third in yesterday’s game, playing third base for Alex Rodriguez who served as the designated hitter.
Chavez has had a series of injuries in his career and the Yankees took a chance signing him. That risk is proving to be a great reward, at least for now. Again, we are in the early stages of the 2011 season, and there is no telling what can happen in terms of injuries.
But if Chavez remains healthy, he could be looked at as a steal in the future; a brilliant acquisition and one of the better moves the Yankees have made in recent years.
Along with Chavez is Andruw Jones – a player once regarded as the most dangerous hitter in the National League. Like Chavez Jones is a former Silver Slugger (2005) and he is a 10-time Gold Glove winner and a five time All-Star.
Jones has played in eight games so far this year and is batting .316 with a home run and two RBIs. He isn’t as fast as he once was, and maybe not even as athletic. But serving the Yanks as the fourth outfielder, he has made a couple of good catches in left field.
As the year progresses, he could become more and more valuable to the Yankees. Jones hit 19 homers for the White Sox last year and knocked in 48 runs. If you ask me, that type of production from a bench player is definitely a plus, and in many ways a bonus.
Yankees’ General Manager Brian Cashman was criticized heavily by the media and the fan base for making these questionable moves in the off-season. Skeptics (including myself) thought the players taken off the scrap heap were never going to make it.
I think the only way to look at it this way:
If the GM signs the player and he bombs, the GM looks like an idiot. If he signs the player and the player prevails, the GM comes off looking like a genius.
So far, Cashman is looking like a genius.
Yet, it cannot be stressed enough: the season is young. Very young. Through the first month each of the scrap heap signees has done extraordinarily well. They have stepped into these roles and flourished, keeping the Yankees (13-8) above the rest of the teams in the division.
But they need to keep on trucking, otherwise Cashman, as smart as he looks now, will look like a person who didn’t know what he was doing in terms of making these signings.
And for now, they are the scrap heap heroes.
Before this season began, many folks called the Yankees’ starting rotation “comically thin.” Those same folks praised the Yankee bullpen, calling them dynamic and strong. Rightfully so, considering they have Mariano Rivera, and they bolstered the ‘pen with the signing of Rafael Soriano, who led the American League in saves last year with 45 for the Tampa Bay Rays.
Right now, it’s almost as if everyone had it backwards.
A.J. Burnett, Ivan Nova, Bartolo Colon, and Freddy Garcia have been pitching great, giving the Yankees length and quality. Each of the starters, who everyone thought were going to pitch terribly, are doing their part. The bullpen on the other hand has been faltering and failing.
Case in point: tonight.
With the Yankees leading 2-1 in the eighth, Soriano plunked Carlos Quentin, who was quickly replaced by pinch-runner Brent Lillibridge (more from him later). The next batter, Paul Konerko, pulled a home run over the left field wall, giving the White Sox a 3-2 lead.
The Yankees tried to stage a comeback in the ninth; Derek Jeter singled, Curtis Granderson sacrifice bunted him over to second, and then Mark Teixeira walked.
Then it became the Lillibridge defense show.
Alex Rodriguez took a pitch to deep right field, all the way to the wall. On his horse, Lillibridge ran and tracked the ball down at the wall for the second out.
Robinson Cano, as the Yanks’ last hope, lined a falling blooper to right, again setting up another excellent play for Lillibridge; he dove, caught the ball, and ended the game.
The only two runs the Yankees generated were by solo home runs, off the bats of Cano (in the second inning) and Brett Gardner (in the fifth).
As a team the Yanks only had four hits tonight and two of them went over the wall. The Yankees collectively have 38 homers, and it’s evident they are relying heavily on the home run.
And as they say: if you live by the home run, there’s a chance you can die by the home run.
Tonight, that was the case.
But it probably should not have come to that in the first place. The Yankees brought Soriano to New York to fill the void in the eighth inning. He was meant to get big outs in the eighth inning; to hold close leads late in the game and set up Rivera, but so far he hasn’t done much of that.
In fact, Raphael the Ninja Turtle seems to be doing more for the Yankees than Rafael Soriano.
He is 1-1 with a 7.84 ERA and he has more walks (8) than strikeouts (7). He left a bad taste in a lot of people’s mouths last night, not going for that popup behind the mound. Tonight he blew a tremendous outing by Nova, who pitched 6 1/3 innings and gave up one earned run on five hits.
Nova walked two and struck out three, the longest outing of his young career.
It was unfortunate for Nova, because if he had won he would have moved to 2-2 on the year. Instead Soriano blew the game and his chance at his second win of the season. Soriano’s body language has also been rubbing certain people the wrong way.
When he surrendered the home run to Konerko, he didn’t look fazed; he remained stoic and it didn’t look as though he cared he had blown the lead. There are some pitchers who do not show emotion, but with the way Soriano has been recently pitching, it wouldn’t kill him to look a little upset with himself.
Yet as poor as Soriano has been pitching, he isn’t alone. Rivera has blown his last two save opportunities, both after good performances from the starters.
On April 19 in Toronto, Burnett gave the Yanks a great outing, turning in 5 1/3 innings and only allowing two earned runs. Rivera blew a 5-3 lead in the ninth and the Blue Jays went on to win 6-5 in 10 innings. Fast forward five days later in Baltimore, and another quality start, this one by Garcia.
Six innings and no earned runs by the starter and Rivera came in and once again let go of the lead. The Yankee offense bailed him out, taking the game into extra innings to beat the Orioles 6-3 in 11 frames, but it still goes as a blown save for Rivera.
The Yankee bullpen, as dynamic and strong as it can be, is not doing the job.
The only bright spot seems to be David Robertson, who has five holds so far this year. Robertson is 1-0 and has not allowed a run in 8 1/3 innings pitched. Tonight he tossed 2/3 of an inning, struck out one, and did not issue a walk.
It’s nice to know we have one guy out there doing his job, but the rest of the relievers are ghosts.
Tomorrow night Colon (1-1, 3.50 ERA) will take the hill for the Yankees (12-8), looking to get them back in the win column. He will face Chicago ace Mark Buehrle (1-2, 5.40 ERA).
As for the bullpen, minus Robertson, I have one closing thought for you:
Act like you care. Get your heads in the game. Start doing work and taking care of business.
The Chicago White Sox had lost 10 of their last 11 games going into last night’s game with the Yankees. Behind a masterful performance by Philip Humber, they changed that, beating the Bombers 2-0 last night.
It was the first time since May 16, 2000 the White Sox have shutout the Yankees.
Humber took a no-hitter into the seventh inning, when Alex Rodriguez broke it up with a seeing-eye single up the middle. The Bronx Bombers finished the night with just three hits.
The Yankees are now 12-7 on the season, still in first place in the AL East holding a 2 ½ game lead over the second place Tampa Bay Rays.
A lot to take away from this game. First…
The lanky right-hander tossed eight strong innings, only giving up one run on three hits. He walked two batters and struck out two.
The Yanks’ number two man threw a solid game, and it was business as usual for him, being that the calendar still reads April. Burnett was 8-0 in April games coming into last night’s game, now 8-1 overall.
Burnett still leads the Yankee staff in wins (3-1) and he needs to keep pitching in top form for the rest of the season. He has enjoyed a great amount of success in April, which is good in terms of getting off to a quick start. Last year Burnett started at 4-0, and everything quickly caved in on him.
8-1 in April is nice to look at, but Burnett is 18-24 with the Yanks in all other months.
The Yankees cannot afford to have Burnett lose it, not with their current pitching situation. Yesterday things got worse for…
So far this season Phil Hughes is 0-1 with a 13.94 ERA. The Yankees have lost each of his three starts and in those three starts, he never made it out of the fifth inning.
He was placed on the 15-day disabled list on April 15 with a tired arm and seemed to be making progress; getting healthier and ready to make another start. In fact, he threw around 90 pitches in Baltimore and was set to make a minor league rehab start. Things were looking up.
That is until yesterday.
Hughes threw a bullpen session and had to stop after just 12 pitches, saying he felt “deadness” in his arm. He compared the sensation in his arm to getting punched in the leg and receiving a numb feeling.
It’s hard to say why this is happening to him. Some are theorizing that his 2010 workload is the reason for his dead arm period right now. Hughes logged 176 1/3 innings last year, the most innings pitched in one season in his career.
Prior to last year, the most innings he had ever thrown in one season was 86 in 2009, a year Hughes pitched primarily out of the bullpen.
Was the move to the rotation in 2010 the reason Hughes has lost it?
Again, it’s hard to say. All signs point to yes, but there really is no way of knowing for sure. Hughes himself can’t even explain it, saying he needs to figure out what is going on and then take it from there.
He will go for an MRI today and maybe that will give him and the Yankees some answers. Until he comes back, the Yankees will need to continue to get stellar pitching out of Burnett, Bartolo Colon (who took Hughes’s spot in the rotation), Freddy Garcia and Ivan Nova.
Rafael Soriano, Derek Jeter, and the Strange Play
In the ninth inning last night, the Yankees called on Rafael Soriano to do what he was brought here to do: hold teams down and not allow them to score in the late innings.
Alexei Ramirez stood at the plate and cracked an infield popup, throwing his bat down in disgust as he ran it out toward first base. Soriano pointed straight up as Derek Jeter, playing back at short, raced in to attempt to catch the ball.
The Captain didn’t get there in time, as the ball dropped between him and the back of the pitcher’s mound, falling in for an infield hit.
The White Sox capitalized and scored in the frame, taking a 2-0 lead into the bottom of the ninth.
After the game Soriano said it wasn’t his ball. In his owns words, “You think I could catch that ball? I don’t think so. I thought Jeter or Alex was going to catch it.”
A little bloop,” Jeter said. “Right behind the mound, not much you can do about it.”
Pitchers are oftentimes uncomfortable fielding popups, scared of colliding with a teammate, stumbling over the mound, and ultimately getting injured. Soriano obviously was not keen on taking that risk.
Manager Joe Girardi said the only player who had a fair shot at catching the ball was Soriano – but added that he might not have gotten there, either.
It was a weird play, that’s the best way to characterize it. The ball was hit so softly and it was just well-placed. It didn’t have a whole lot of hang time and with Jeter and Rodriguez playing back at their positions, there was no way for them to get the ball.
Jeter, in his prime, may have been able to catch up to it. But even so, it would have been difficult given the placement of the ball.
Soriano could have done more to take charge, but I understand why he didn’t. If he had gone for it, fell, and gotten hurt, I would be writing about what a foolish decision it was to go after the ball.
Bear in mind, Soriano sat out on Sunday with a strained lower back. He stated, however, that he was fine to pitch yesterday and just needed a day off.
That run cost the Yanks, somewhat, as Curtis Granderson smacked a single to leadoff the bottom of the ninth inning. He would have represented the tying run on first base if that run had not come around to score in the top half of the frame.
It didn’t matter anyway as Mark Teixeira, on a 2-0 count, bounced into a 3-6-1 double play to end the threat.
Clearly it wasn’t the Yankees’ night.
Tonight it could be, though. Ivan Nova (1-2, 7.63 ERA) will take the rock for the Bombers, battling Gavin Floyd (2-1, 4.00 ERA).
In college I learned a lot about feature stories. If you are not familiar with them or if you are unfamiliar with the journalistic term, feature stories are basically a break from the hard news; a look at people’s lives without the craziness of what is happening at that moment. They can be interesting, unique, and moving, if written or conveyed properly.
Tonight ESPN’s series E:60 began its new season. The show airs every Tuesday night and it is basically a program about feature stories; a break from SportsCenter and the game recaps with a focus on different athletes and their personal triumphs and tragedies.
On tonight’s season premiere, my eyes were opened – and eventually swelled. ESPN did an investigative and gripping piece on Christina-Taylor Green, the 9 year-old girl who was killed in Tucson, AZ on Jan. 8 of this year.
I didn’t realize until tonight that Christina was the granddaughter of Dallas Green, manager of the Yankees in 1989. Green also managed the Philadelphia Phillies to their first World Series in 1980.
Christina was born on Sept. 11, 2001, one of the worst days in American history. Her parents said she was a “glimmer of hope” in the wake of such tragedy; out of the worst day in America’s history came their sparkling little girl.
Christina enjoyed baseball and she was very close with her Little League teammates. I suppose she had to be, considering her background. There was only one other girl on her team, 8 year-old Mae Sinclair. Even as a girl, she had the respect of all her male teammates, and she never thought of herself of as a female ballplayer – just a ballplayer.
When she died, at the hand of a sick gunman who was looking to assassinate Senator Gabrielle Giffords, everyone around her seemed to be impacted in such a major way. Although I am not a parent myself, I cannot imagine how difficult it would be to lose a child at such a young age. Her grandfather seemed devastated and heartbroken while her young teammates expressed how sad they were, not to be playing with her this year.
“It feels good to be playing baseball again, but without her it’s a little bit lonely,” remarked one of her teammates.
Another said, “I think that it’s just sad that she’s not here anymore.”
The sincerity in the eyes of these young ballplayers was just overwhelming. I think the sadness in their eyes is what turned my eyes into Niagra Falls.
ESPN takes you the viewer through the whole story, as emotionally draining as it is. The most breathtaking part of the whole story is the end. They show how an angel, fashioned out of steel from the World Trade Center, now sits behind the field Christina once played on – as well as how that field is now named after her.
There have not been many programs or movies that I have seen that have driven me to tears. This story did, and more importantly, it taught me a lesson. One person, no matter how small, can make a world of difference in someone’s life. Christina’s personality seemed to touch so many people around her and I think it lives on through her legacy.
I also feel I learned that no matter how bad I think I have it, things can be worse. A young lady, who had such a zest for life and possessed such a positive attitude, is now gone. And not only is she gone, her loving family is without her and I know that I shouldn’t take my life for granted because there are other people who valued their life and aren’t here anymore.
If you would like to be moved and watch Christina’s story, click here.
Also, be sure to catch E:60 every Tuesday night at 7:00 on ESPN. You will see some wonderfully compiled feature stories and some top-notch reporting. I don’t agree with some of what ESPN has to say, but trust me, this show is a must-see for any sports fan.
The Boston Red Sox were 0-6 coming into their home opener against the Yankees. Behind some weak pitching on the Yankees’ part, the Red Sox changed that. Boston captured its first win of the year, beating the Yanks 9-6 this afternoon. It was almost as if the simple baseball game turned into a fierce tennis match, both sides going back-and-forth with the scoring.
Tied 6-6 in the bottom of the fifth inning, a double by Jarrod Saltalamacchia brought home Kevin Youkilis; making the game 7-6 in favor of Boston. Bartolo Colon, who put up such a valiant effort in relief, gave up the go-ahead run but it could have been prevented. An error by Mark Teixeira allowed David Ortiz to reach base, and the inning continued.
Boone Logan came on in relief in the seventh and gave up two more runs on a single by J.D. Drew. Ortiz and Adrian Gonzalez came to the plate, Boston went up 9-6, and eventually they finished off the game.
There were plenty of things that went wrong for the Yankees today. Obviously the biggest story…
Two games for Phil Hughes this year, and both times he has gotten shelled. Today the 24 year-old righty was tagged for six earned runs on seven hits in just two innings. He didn’t strike anyone out and walked two batters. He threw 47 pitches, all of which lacked command, movement, and velocity. He did not trust his fastball, which topped out in the high-80s, low-90s, and tossed a lot of cutters.
Hughes’s day could probably be summed up with one pitch: the hanger he threw to Dustin Pedroia in the first inning. He hung a breaking ball a little too high and Pedroia pulled it over the Green Monster for a solo home run.
From there, he never recovered.
In his previous start, Hughes lost to the Detroit Tigers, pitching only four innings and giving up five earned runs on five hits. He walked two batters and struck out one, as many analysts noticed location and velocity were nowhere to be found in that start.
His season ERA after his first two starts: 16.50.
I got the feeling Hughes was going to struggle this season for a few reasons. First of all, go back and look at how he finished last year. He registered the loss in the 2010 All-Star Game for the American League and from there it all seemed to go downhill for him.
He lost two important games in the American League Championship Series to the Texas Rangers – and both losses were all on him. He pitched very poorly in both starts and it cost the Yankees in a major way.
In fact, Hughes gave up 11 earned runs on 14 hits in those final two games last year.
Now fast forward and look at how he performed in Spring Training this year. His record wasn’t indicative of any failure (he was 1-0) but he gave up 10 earned runs in just five games. He also gave up four homers, his ERA was 4.09, and he pitched 22 innings giving up 24 hits.
It may not look like it in the box score, but he got knocked around all spring.
I had said on a few occasions that Hughes might have a year this year like A.J. Burnett had last year – not pitching effectively and thus ending the season with a lopsided win-loss record and a sky-high ERA. While it is early – extremely early – in the season, it looks as though my thought could be well-founded. Hughes is already 0-1 and pitched as if he should be 0-2 – the offense scored for him and got him out of a loss today.
Last year Hughes had the best run support of any pitcher in the American League, the Yankees averaging almost eight runs per game on days he took the mound.
But he can’t live off that forever; eventually it will come back to bite him, like it did today. Hughes was lucky that John Lackey pitched just as poorly as he did, throwing five innings and giving up six earned runs on seven hits.
Lackey walked two batters and struck out two, but notched the win because the Red Sox were able to scrape across that run in the fifth while he was still the pitcher of record. All in all Lackey was lack-luster, but the Boston offense got it done for him – which was the story of Hughes’s 2010 season. He would give up runs, but the Yankees would score for him to get him off the hook and most times, get him a win.
And like Hughes, Lackey might not be so lucky his next time out.
After Hughes’s departure, ESPN insider Buster Olney tweeted: “You’d have to think that the Yankees will talk about replacing Phil Hughes in the rotation. For whatever reason, he has no weapons.”
All true. None of Hughes’s pitches are working for him.
Right now, replacing Hughes in the rotation seems like a novel idea, especially since he admitted after the game that his arm strength is not where it should be.
And with the way Bartolo Colon pitched in relief (4 1/3 innings, two hits, two runs, one earned run, one walk, five Ks) he would be the obvious choice, although there are other options. Mark Prior is a pitcher they could call up, and Kevin Millwood isn’t far behind.
Heck, if the Yankees think about it, they still have Dellin Betances waiting in the wings.
What Hughes is showing right now reminds me of how Chien-Ming Wang pitched to start 2009. Wang struggled in the worst way and lost the faith of the Yankees. There’s only one thing that Hughes and Wang don’t have in common about their poor pitching in the early-going:
When Wang struggled, it was because he was hurt. There isn’t anything wrong with Hughes.
Yankee manager Joe Girardi confirmed after the game that there is nothing physically wrong with Hughes and that he just needs to command his pitches better. Wang was injured and eventually landed himself on the disabled list following his subpar start in ’09.
At least Wang had a reason for his struggle. Hughes just hasn’t been pitching well.
Hughes’s next start is supposed to be on Wednesday at home against Baltimore – a team atop the AL East right now, playing exceptional baseball. However, the Yankees have an off-day on Monday and could work around Hughes, pushing him back.
The likelihood of Hughes being skipped (I would say) is pretty high right now. So far he is only proving that he has a dead arm, he has nothing behind any of his pitches, and he isn’t doing his job as the Yankees’ number three starter.
I still have faith in Hughes. I think if he physically gets himself back to where he was during the first half of last year, he can be as dominant as any ace in the league. But he needs to get there.
He needs to get his fastball back up to the mid-90s, blowing hitters away and not letting them catch up to it. He needs to get his breaking ball working again, fooling hitters with its movement. He needs to locate his pitches, and get them down in the strike zone – not leaving them up for hitters to feast upon.
If he does that, he will be fine. If not, it will be a long season for Hughes.
Another Guilty Party
What is this guy doing on the team? Does he even have any business here in New York?
He is in the bullpen to be the Yanks’ lefty specialist, and so far he is not proving he is a lefty specialist because he isn’t getting any left-handed hitters out. Logan is only proving he doesn’t belong here, as he gave up a two-run single to Drew in the seventh. At that point the Yanks were only down by one run and still had two innings to scrape a run across and tie it up.
I think once Logan gave up those runs, the Yanks’ bats just gave up and never recovered.
Logan was part of the Yanks’ meltdown on Tuesday to the Twins, and was even tagged with the loss in that game. Right now the reliever is 0-1 with an ERA of 13.50.
I know he is only filling in for Pedro Feliciano, who is on the DL with shoulder soreness. I hope Feliciano comes back soon, because the Yankee bullpen could sure use a lift.
And we could all use a break from Logan.
Bright Spots of the Day
Although it was a bad day for Hughes, Logan, and the Yankee team, there is some good to take away from it. Here are some things the Yankees did right today and some things we learned:
· We now know Bartolo Colon can thrive in a long relief role. Despite the two runs (only one was earned) he cleaned up Hughes’s mess quite nicely.
· Alex Rodriguez homered today, his fifth career round-tripper off John Lackey. He now has three homers on the year and he is hitting .304.
· Curtis Granderson went the other way, slapping a double into left field. It’s good to see Granderson, a traditional pull-hitter, go oppo and hit to left field instead of right.
· Derek Jeter had a hit and an RBI. He’s now 68 hits away from 3,000.
· Brett Gardner had a triple, his first of 2011. He also stole a base, once again showcasing his Sonic the Hedgehog-like speed. A walk is as good as a double when it comes to Gardner. He can fly on the bases.
· Robinson Cano, a lifetime slugger at Fenway Park, was 2-for-4 with two doubles and two RBIs. Cano seems to be heating up. Look out opposing pitchers…
Today is done and there is tomorrow afternoon to look forward to. Ivan Nova (1-0, 4.50 ERA) will look to get the Yankees back in the win column. He is facing Clay Buchholz (0-1, 5.68 ERA).