Yesterday I added a new piece to my seemingly never-ending Yankee memorabilia collection. I purchased the official “Winning Streak Dynasty” banner from Modells, since they were having a sale and marketing it for a relatively low price.
Just by glancing at the banner, and each of the 27 years the Yankees have won the World Series, gave me an idea: a look inside some of the World Series the Yankees have won. I figured I would explore the reasons why the Yankees won that specific year, provide some background on the regular season, examine turning points that made each fall classic special, and identify the key players who made it what it was.
I figured I would first relive a very magical season: 1998.
Regular season record: 114-48
Postseason record: 11-2
Manager: Joe Torre (3rd season)
The 1998 Yankees, who went on to set a Major League record for most games won overall in a season, began their year in a slow fashion. They lost four out of their first five games to start the year, including a 10-2 beat-down at the hands of the California Angels.
Manager Joe Torre called an “angry meeting” and aired out some of his feelings to his players. The pitchers and the position players noticed somewhat of a rift between each other; some batters were hit and felt the pitchers did not do enough to retaliate.
They eventually found their groove on April 7 against the Seattle Mariners, beating the M’s 13-7. From there, they won their next seven games and wound up ending April with a record of 17-6.
On May 17 starting pitcher David Wells tossed a perfect game at home vs. the Minnesota Twins. He retired 27 consecutive batters leading the Yanks to a 4-0 win. It was only the 15th perfect game in MLB history and only the second perfecto thrown by a Yankee.
Later in the season on Sept. 1, Wells almost threw another perfect game. Facing the Oakland Athletics, Wells was perfect through 7 2/3 innings. Needing only seven outs for another perfect game, Jason Giambi lined a single off an 0-2 count to break it up.
May 19 marked a turning point in the season. After Baltimore Orioles’ closer Armando Benitez allowed a three-run home run to Bernie Williams, he pegged Tino Martinez in between his shoulder blades. He was immediately run from the game, but the HBP practically caused a riot.
A fracas ensued and the Yanks and O’s exchanged shoves, and eventually punches.
The Yankees went on to beat the Orioles 9-5 in that game, and also swept them in that series three games to one.
A Year-Long Tear
The Yankees only lost 17 games in the summer months of July and August, while winning 42. Williams described the season as a “year-long tear,” as there really was no other way to characterize how the Bronx Bombers played.
In the ALDS, the Yankees easily handed the Texas Rangers a clean sweep. Juan Gonzalez, the player who eventually captured the 1998 A.L. MVP Award was no match for the starting pitching the Yanks had. David Wells, Andy Pettitte, and David Cone shut down the Rangers three games in a row, each notching a playoff win.
Rookie Shane Spencer, Brosius, and right field warrior Paul O’Neill led the Yanks, all hitting home runs in the first round of the postseason.
The American League Championship Series pitted the Yanks against began the defending A.L. Champs, the Cleveland Indians. New York was looking to erase their 1997 ALCS defeat and beat the Tribe 7-2 in Game One.
Game Two however was an ugly defeat for the Yanks. The game was tied up until inning number 12 when Travis Fryman laid down a bunt. Reliever Jeff Nelson threw the ball to first base, as the second baseman Knoblauch covered the bag. The ball hit Fryman in the back and Knoblauch argued with the umpire instead of retrieving the ball, which at that point was trickling down the first baseline.
Enrique Wilson scored and the Indians went on to win 4-1. The momentum carried into Game Three, as the Indians brought the lumber with them. Playing at home, sluggers Jim Thome and Manny Ramirez left he yard twice, and Mark Whiten added a homer en route to a 6-1 win over the Yanks. They pounded Pettitte while newly acquired Yankee Bartolo Colon cruised to a complete game victory.
But the Game Three loss marked the last time the Yanks would lose a playoff game in ’98.
Down two games to one, Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez took the hill, needing a clutch outing to keep the Yanks alive. Seven shutout innings later, and with some help from O’Neill (who homered) Hernandez and the Yanks picked up a 4-0 Game Four win.
Game One winner Wells took the ball again in Game Five. Now with the ALCS even at two, the Yanks rolled to a 5-3 win, under the strength of a fourth inning home run off the bat of Davis to give the Yanks a three-run lead. Kenny Lofton and Thome both hit home runs, but the Yankee bullpen was able to hold off the rest of the Cleveland lineup.
Now needing one win to get the fall classic, the Yanks came home to play Game Six. They jumped all over Charles Nagy, scoring six runs in the first three innings. Cleveland did not give up easily however, scoring five runs in the fifth, with the main blow being a grand slam from Thome.
The Yankees answered with three runs in the six, plating runs on a triple by Derek Jeter and a single by Williams. They went on to make a winner out of Cone, beating the Indians 9-5 and winning the A.L. pennant for the 35th time.
The Yankees were then headed for the World Series, set to play the San Diego Padres.
The World Series
1998 was the 94th World Series played in MLB history and the Yankees were gunning for their 24th title in franchise history. The Padres were looking for their first World Series victory, having lost the fall classic in 1984–the only other year in their history that they won the National League pennant.
In Game One, San Diego took a 5-2 lead, getting home runs from sluggers Greg Vaughn and Tony Gwynn. But going into the seventh inning, the Yanks came up with a plan. Knoblauch atoned for his ALCS blunder, smacking a game-tying three-run home run into the left field seats.
Later in the frame with the bases loaded, everything changed.
Martinez came up with the bases loaded and on a full count, blasted a grand slam home run into the upper deck tier seats in right field, giving the Yankees a 9-5 lead.
Yankee Stadium exploded.
And it was the turning point in the series, simply because the Yankees carried the momentum from that home run with them the rest of the way. In Game Two, the Yankees beat the Padres 9-3, with home runs off the bats of Williams and Jorge Posada.
Heading out to San Diego and the Yankees up two games to none, Cone took the mound in Game Three. Both teams didn’t score until the sixth, when the Padres plated three runs. The Yanks answered with two in the seventh, receiving a two-run home run from Brosius.
Trevor Hoffman was called on in the eighth inning. San Diego manager Bruce Bochy wanted his closer to nail down a six-out save leading 3-2 going into the frame. Hoffman folded however, giving up a three-run home run to Brosius, which gave New York a 5-3 lead.
Vaughn cut the lead to one with a sac fly in the bottom of the eighth, but the Padres could not rally all the way back, and the Yankees took Game Three, 5-4.
Many people argue that Game Four was just a formality, and in a lot of ways it was. The Padres were all but defeated in the ’98 World Series after Game Three, having been outscored 24-13 in the previous three games. Pettitte toed the rubber, hoping to wrap up New York’s 24th Championship.
Both teams were kept off the board until the sixth, when the Yankees plated a run on a groundout by Williams that scored Jeter. The Yankees added two more runs in the eighth, with an RBI single by Brosius and a sac fly by Ricky Ledee to score O’Neill.
The Padres made an effort to come back in the eighth, loading the bases on Nelson. However, Mariano Rivera wiggled out of the jam and pitched a scoreless ninth to clinch the World Series title.
1998 was just one of those special seasons that nothing went wrong. They have been described as “The Greatest Team Ever” being that they won 125 total games and only lost 50. Those types of seasons don’t come around very often and when they do, it’s important to remember them.
I will always remember the 1998 baseball for the Yankees–not Mark McGwire or Sammy Sosa breaking the home run records. I had more fun watching a team play every game as if it were their last than watching two guys race for a hallowed baseball record.
I think that says a lot about how exciting the Yanks were.
Desperate times call for desperate measures. And right now, it’s really no secret the Yankees are turning to desperate measures. As reported yesterday, the Yankees signed Bartolo Colon to a deal worth $900,000 plus incentives. According to Buster Olney, Colon pitched for Tony Pena’s team this winter, which may have played into the Yankees’ decision to sign him.
This signing caused a little bit of an uproar from Yankee fans and analysts. One source said, “Bartolo? Maybe he can be Alex Rodriguez’s personal batting practice pitcher. 22-for-51 lifetime with eight home runs.”
Colon is 14-21 with a 5.18 ERA since 2005. His signing puts him in line with Mark Prior, another starting pitcher the Yanks acquired with a history of injuries. The Yanks inked Prior to a minor league deal this off-season and to my best estimate would be a bullpen pitcher, if he is healthy and makes the team.
On the edition of Yankees Hot Stove I watched tonight, the starting rotation and lineup for 2011 were both projected. As far as the rotation goes, the YES Network has CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Phil Hughes, Ivan Nova, and Sergio Mitre penciled in as the five starters.
Nova in 2010 was 1-2 with a 4.70 ERA. He allowed 21 earned runs in 42 innings, which doesn’t seem bad. He also hasn’t really had the opportunity to showcase his stuff, but for some reason he doesn’t excite me. Nova will get the chance next year to show what he’s got.
I just hope that he doesn’t become another Ian Kennedy or Darrell Rasner.
Mitre was 0-3 in 2010 with an ERA of 3.33 in 27 appearances. Since becoming a Yankee, Mitre has only three wins under his belt and hasn’t been very effective, to say the least. The only start of note Mitre made was in August of 2009 against the White Sox when he took a no-hitter into the fifth inning. Eventually he ended the outing with 6 1/3 scoreless innings recorded with one hit allowed.
Aside from that outing, Mitre hasn’t done much to benefit the team.
The Yankees have now made several moves in terms of signing free agents. But judging by tonight’s Yankee hot stove report, they will be turning to the Minor Leagues this year. It seems as though they have a few youngsters who will be looking to make the team and from their own words, the Bronx is where they want to be come March 31 when the Yanks open up at home against Detroit.
Since we already know the so-called “Baby Bombers” might get a taste of the show this year, I have singled out five top Yankee prospects that we could see in the Bronx this season–and others we will surely see in the near future. Some of them may have to wait a few more years; others may get the call to the show in ’11.
Nonetheless, we’ll undoubtedly see each of them in Spring Training at the end of next month.
5) Cito Culver
He is a player I do not expect to see in the Bronx in 2011. However, we could be looking at the heir apparent to Derek Jeter’s shortstop throne.
I saw Cito Culver play this summer. The Hudson Valley Renegades, the Minor League affiliate of the Rays (and a team I interned for this past summer), played the Staten Island Yankees a few times, as both teams are in the McNamara Division of the New York Penn League. With that I was able to watch him play, but the only game he played in: 0-for-2 with a walk.
Not much to look at there.
Culver, who will be 19 this August, has played in 56 games since getting drafted in June of last season–51 with the Gulf Coast Yankees and 15 with the Staten Island Yankees. So far in his young career he has a .251 batting average and has only hit two home runs with 18 RBIs. He has shown ability to hit the ball in the gap, as he has legged out eight doubles and a triple over that span.
He is very young and is a work in progress. But by the time Jeter’s contract expires in 2014, Culver might be developed enough to succeed him. Culver will still be in his early 20s while Jeter will be in his early 40s.
If I were the Yankees I would start getting him ready now. If they play Culver wisely, he produces, and he doesn’t he injured, he can potentially be the next long-term Yankee shortstop. From the scouting reports I have read, he has great bat speed for a kid his age and can play above average on defense.
4) Manuel Banuelos
The majors in 2011? Maybe. Maybe not. Right now, I am thinking not.
Left-handed pitcher Manuel Banuelos is going to be 20 years old on March 13 and has risen through the ranks of the Yankees’ Minor League system. He has been down on the Yankees’ farm since 2008 and had his best season in 2009.
For the Tampa Yankees and Charleston River Dogs in ’09, Banuelos compiled a 9-5 record with a 2.64 ERA, making 19 starts and 26 appearances. In three Minor League seasons, he is 13-10 with an ERA of 2.59 which includes 37 starts and 215 2/3 innings.
An upside about Banuelos: he seems to be a strikeout machine while not allowing as many free passes. In the 215 2/3 innings he has logged in the minors, he has sat down 228 batters on strikes–only issuing 66 career walks.
228:66 strikeout-to-walk ratio: not bad.
Banuelos has only been up to the Double-A level, pitching three games in Trenton last year. He will have to prove himself worthy again with a tough 2010 (0-4 overall with a 2.51 ERA coming off his solid ’09 campaign) but expect good things from him in the future.
If he has a great bounce back year, he may be a September call-up. A scouting report said he features a smooth, easy delivery and he demonstrates the ability to repeat it. They say he throws a devastating 12-6 curve ball. His fastball has been clocked at 94 on the speed gun and shows tailing action on right-handed batters.
The same report compared him to Johan Santana.
3) Dellin Betances
The Show in ’11? Yes. I can see him there.
I think what benefits the 6’8, 245-lb. right-handed starting pitcher is his age. Dellin Betances will be 23 by the time the 2011 season begins, unlike most of his comrades who are still in their late teens. Betances has been in the Yanks’ system since 2006 and has put together a career Minor League record of 20-14.
He has registered 349 strikeouts over that span, but has walked 135 batters. He has given up less than a run per inning, as he has thrown 299 2/3 innings for his career and has given up 134 runs.
One of his downsides is the fact that he has had reconstructive surgery, which was apparently a ligament reinforcement procedure. His surgery may have been what has stopped him from making it all the way to the majors this early in his career.
Scouting reports indicate Betances exhibits a fastball, a curve ball, and a changeup. His fastball has been gunned at 96-97 and he has the ability to pound the strike zone with it. From what they say, he starts most hitters off with his fastball and eventually finishes them off with it, using it as an out pitch.
His curve ball is said to stay down in the zone and he does not overuse it. The changeup is about 82-85 mph and if he can obtain better command of it, it will become faster over time.
Betances has the ability to be an ace. Look out for him. With the lack of starting pitching this year, he may finally get his chance to show Yankee Universe what he has got. I think it will all depend on how he performs this spring.
2) Austin Romine
Not only will he probably make a big league appearance this year, he has the possibility to make the team out of Spring Training.
Austin Romine, 22, was the Yankees’ second-best prospect in 2010 according to Baseball America. Drafted in 2007, Romine has been a solid catcher down on the Bomber farm. In 2007 he played one game for the Gulf Coast Yankees and had one hit, a walk, and two runs scored in that game.
From there on out, he has had at least 10 home runs in every season he has played and through four Minor League seasons, he has batted in 191 runs. He has played as high as Double-A Trenton and his overall batting average is .281. He also won the 2009 Florida State League Player of the Year Award and participated in the 2010 Futures Game.
Scouting reports say he is a well-rounded catcher, but his defense is a hair above his offense. They say his arm strength is very good and it will probably get better as he develops. What’s more, he is a gap hitter with 84 career doubles and four career triples.
“Expect those extra base hits to turn into home runs as he fills in his 6’1, 195-lb. frame,” one report suggested.
Romine said he hopes it comes down to the wire in Spring Training in terms of making the team. He would like to do battle for the final roster spot with…
1) Jesus Montero
The Yankees’ number one top prospect and the fifth best prospect in all of baseball.
The cream of the crop. The sure thing? Perhaps.
Catcher Jesus Montero, 21, has already been declared ready for the majors by Yankee Hitting Coach Kevin Long. However, his defense is what has kept him down. His height (6’4) is what apparently makes him not a viable catcher. Some have even suggested that he switch positions, moving to first base or a corner outfield position.
While that remains to be seen, he has demonstrated stellar offensive numbers. In 380 career Minor League games he has recorded 449 hits with 58 homers and 251 RBIs. Last season in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, he averaged .289 with 21 home runs (a career-high) and 75 RBIs.
Montero obviously has it right on offense. A source called him the Yanks’ best hitting prospect since Jeter–that’s something that cannot be taken too lightly.
One scouting report said he is expected to eventually average .300 with 30 homers a year.
The Yankees have signed Russell Martin this off-season, which gives them the chance to continue to mold Montero on defense. I suppose they can try him out at different positions during the spring if his defense at the catcher spot is a major concern and will keep him down.
Either way, expect big things from him. And soon.
In my last entry, I wrote about how my friends and I watched the Jets’ AFC Title game at a New York City bar on Sunday night. I figured I would save this minor exchange from a weak mind for today.
Even though it was the Jets and we were watching a football game, for some reason everyone I was with was wearing something Yankees. Three of my friends (Dave, Kevin, and Pedro) were wearing Yankee hats while I was wearing my Yankee jacket and fleece.
At any rate, an older man (probably in his early 30s, if you consider that “older”) walked into the bar and took his jacket off, only to reveal a 2004 Boston Red Sox shirt.
Not to mention, he oddly resembled Lovie Smith. We weren’t positive it was really him, since he was in Chicago that day for the NFC Title game, but then again…considering how the game went for the Bears, you never know.
He was obviously a little inebriated and he approached us. And thus began a little exchange.
“Hey guys!!!!” he yelled, while standing right in front of us, mind you. “You ready for Michael Kay this year?”
We looked at each other, bemused.
“I can’t wait. At the track, at the wall, Swisher looks up…SEE YA! Another home run for Carl Crawford and the Red Sox lead 7-3!”
We kind of ignored him and just walked away, laughing. We figured at least in his little fantasy game, he gave the Yankees three runs. If he was smart, he would have made it 15-0 Red Sox.
I understand not every Red Sox fan is like this. Believe it or not, there are Red Sox fans out there that I can actually hold intelligent conversations with. However, when this sort of exchange takes place, it makes it really difficult to like them.
Besides, Crawford only hit 19 homers last year. It’s not like he led the team in homers (Carlos Pena did with 28) so I am certain he was just bragging about the free agent signing. Which, if the case, makes him a pathetic, drunk loser.
“Great spirits have often encountered violent opposition from weak minds.”–Albert Einstein
First thing is first: I’m sorry to all the Jets fans who had to witness their team fall in the AFC Title game this evening. I know how emotionally invested a lot of Jets fans are, but I suppose they cannot get too attached. Now, two years in a row, the Jets have lost the last game before the Super Bowl–and bear in mind they haven’t won the big game since 1969.
I watched the game in a New York City bar with a group of friends, one of whom is a huge Jets fanatic. In fact, he is such a huge fan that when they lost, he broke down and tears were in his eyes.
And I don’t blame him. I know the feeling. 2002, 2003 (well aside from Aaron Boone’s home run), 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2008 were all years I went through that awful feeling. His number one favorite team is the Jets. My team is the Yankees, and I know as a fan how hard it is to have your heart set on winning a title, or even getting to a title game or series.
And I know how hard it is to have your heart set on that…and not get it. Believe me, I am familiar with the agnony of defeat. So I do feel for him and the Jets fans everywhere. Yet, as a fan of the New York Giants, I can at least take solace in my memories from 2007-08….
Now onto the main reason I am blogging…
I had a STRANGE dream the other night. And when I say strange, I mean it’s extremely random and very farfetched.
In the dream I had the other night, the Yankees, much like in the 2009 World Series, were playing the Philadelphia Phillies. I guess it was an interleague game…but then again I have no idea, it was a dream. But I do know the Yankees will not be playing the Phillies in 2011, unless it’s in the World Series.
Anyway, it appeared to be before the game and the Yanks were warming up on the field. Cliff Lee walked up to the Yankees with a smile on his face and mockingly said,
I have never woken up from a dream in such anger; in such frustration. I was legitimately annoyed at Lee for something he said IN A DREAM. Maybe I am simply harboring bad feelings because the Yankees have had no luck signing any starting pitchers and they really pushed hard for Lee. That, and in reality, there are two spots in the rotation that are currently voided.
Not only that, but the problem doesn’t look as though it will be solved any time soon. I don’t see the Yankees making a huge blockbuster trade for a viable starter before the season begins. A few names have been thrown around. I have heard Freddy Garcia and Nate Robertson, who might be good for a number five spot.
At this point, I don’t have an answer. I just know that I am sick and tired of every off-season having to go through the dilemma of starting pitching. We always need it and it’s quite tiring.
And not having Lee, knowing he was so close to becoming a Yankee, also apparently irritates me–so much to the point where I am having weird dreams about it.
On a side note (and another funny, little story) I was looking through some of my old Yankee ticket stubs the other day. Yes, I am a packrat and I keep them because they spark so many memories when I look at them.
I picked up one from June 29, 2002–a Yankees vs. Mets game I went to with a number of my relatives from my extended family. That of course meaning, I went to a Subway Series game as a Yankee fan with a ton of Mets fans.
Looking at the stub, I remember what my crazy cousin Joe did. A Mets fan, he made a sign that read “Jason Giambi Stole My Car” and brought it with him to the game.
Why he did this, I will never know. But I will admit it was funny.
The Yankees wound up losing that game 11-2 and yes, it was difficult to stomach that. However, and Derek Jeter hit a home run, which was cool to see. Plus, the Yanks won the other two games in that series, so they had the last laugh. As they usually do against the Mets.
I have given a name to the Yankee bullpen:
That would be (Pedro) Feliciano, (Rafael) Soriano, and Mariano (Rivera).
Right now I am picturing Michael Kay and the rest of the YES commentators and analysts calling them by this nickname. And somehow, I get the feeling that I’ll be sitting down watching a game and Kay will blurt out to John Flaherty,
“Flash, I just came up with the perfect nickname for the Yankee ‘pen: The -ianos. It makes perfect sense!”
Then Flaherty will respond with something like,
“Michael, you always come up with these funny names. You are a genius .”
Then of course I will become upset, yelling at the TV set about how I came up with it first.
Hopefully the Yankee ‘pen will make some noise next year. Former Yankee reliever Jeff Nelson already said the blueprint for the 2011 Yankee bullpen reminds him of the corps of relief pitchers from the Yankee Dynasty from 1996-2000.
That’s a good sign.
“The -ianos” will most likely make up the heart of the bullpen and did well for what it was worth in 2010. With the Mets last season Feliciano was 3-6 with a 3.30 ERA, but was able to dominate most lefties. He only gave up eight extra base hits to hitters batting from the left side of the plate. They only hit .211 against him and he allowed no home runs to left-handed hitters in 92 appearances.
That kind of brilliance will be used to counter David Ortiz and the rest of the A.L. power lefties.
Soriano, as most people know, agreed to a three-year deal with the Yankees last Thursday. The 31 year-old flame-throwing righty will be the eight inning man in the absence of Kerry Wood, who returned to the Chicago Cubs. Soriano led the A.L. in saves last year with 45 for the Tampa Bay Rays.
According to several reports, the decision to sign Soriano was not the decision of Yankee General Manager Brian Cashman. In fact, he was not happy the deal went down, probably because the Yankees paid around $35 million for him and lost their number one draft pick.
Today Soriano was introduced at Yankee Stadium in a press conference and had an apparent exchange with the Yanks’ GM.
One source said Cashman’s conversation with Soriano went something like this:
Soriano: “I’m happy to be a Yankee.”
Cashman: “And we’re happy that you’re a Yankee, too. Although I’d personally be happy with other players instead.”
That would make me terribly uncomfortable.
In any event, Soriano is a Yankee. And he best live up to his contract, or else Cashman will be standing in front of all the executives who pushed for Soriano, smiling and saying, “I told you so.”
Rounding out “The -ianos” is who else but the Sandman, Mariano Rivera. There’s really no need to even go into detail about Rivera’s capability. He is a legend. Last year he picked up 33 saves and boasted a trim ERA of 1.80. He signed a two-year deal this off-season, meaning the Yankees will be treated to his services for at least another two seasons.
Mo is Mo and I expect another solid year from him.
With the bullpen pieces in place, the Yankee relievers should make life easier for the starters. But just remember, if Kay, Flaherty, or anyone else for that matter calls them “The -ianos” and says it’s their idea…
No no no.
You heard it at Yankee Yapping first.
As far back as I can remember I have always loved the New York Yankees. But in the fall of 1996, a new form of sports (or sports entertainment, I should say) piqued my interest.
November 17, 1996 is when I watched my first World Wrestling Federation Pay Per View, a match called “Survivor Series.” The event took place at the world’s most famous arena, Madison Square Garden in New York City, some eight or nine miles away from Yankee Stadium.
MSG is a venue the WWE frequents and if you talk to any wrestling fan, they will agree that The Garden is to the WWE what Yankee Stadium is to the Bronx Bombers.
As a 9 year-old it was a crazy experience. I watched in awe as wrestlers like The Undertaker, Mankind, Bret Hart, The British Bulldog, Rocky Maivia (who later became The Rock and is now in the movies known by his real name Dwayne Johnson) and Shawn Michaels battled it out in the squared circle for glory, honor, and respect.
Ever since then, I have found wrestling and Yankee baseball to be two of my greatest interests; two sports that have kept me involved for a long period of time. In recent times, it’s been easy to make connections to the world of pro-wrestling and the Yankees.
Some Yankee players have openly admitted that not only do they watch wrestling, but they are fans of the WWE. In the WWE, the wrestlers have oftentimes referenced the Yankees–in both good ways and bad–in order to generate a reaction from the live audiences.
What some people do not understand is that pro wrestling, although considered by me and many others to be a real sport, is what is commonly known as “sports entertainment.” While there is a sheer amount of athleticism that goes on in each and every match, the storylines and a large majority of what happens on the TV shows (a la Monday Night Raw and Friday Night Smackdown) is scripted.
In laymen’s terms, it’s a soap opera with body slams. Yet wrestlers still get injured during matches and they put their bodies on the line to satisfy the crowds, which is why, to me, pro wrestling is in fact a real sport. People can say whatever they want to about wrestling being “fake” but as Bret “The Hitman” Hart once said,
“Wrestling is far more real than people think.”
As it relates to the Yankees, there have been a few moments that stand out to me which connected the WWE and the Yankees. One instance was January 28, 2008. WWE was at The Garden for their annual Royal Rumble Pay Per View.
Santino Marella, a comedic character who is known more for his outlandish demeanor rather than his in-ring ability, came out to address the New York crowd. Being a heel, wrestling’s terms for a bad-guy (or a wrestler disliked by the crowd), Marella proceeded to put down my favorite team.
“The Yankees,” he said. “Chokers! Help, it’s a mosquito! I am going to blow the playoffs!”
Of course he was making reference to the infamous 2007 postseason- Joba Chamberlain “Bug Game.” Watching the PPV at a friend’s house, Marella’s remarks got me really angry; especially since the Boston Red Sox went on to win the World Series that year. I even remember rising up out of my seat and walking towards the TV set because he had hit a raw nerve of mine, as if I could do anything about it.
Over a year later, Marella (upon becoming a baby face, or a wrestling good guy) wore a Yankee jersey when the WWE returned to MSG for a show.
And that’s the beauty of wrestling sometimes–that it commands emotion. A wrestler can say things that just want to make you reach through the television set and strangle them, but at the same time, you love what they are doing.
Another great Yankee-WWE moment was back in either late 1999 or early 2000. Two wrestlers known as Edge and Christian (who like Marella were also heels) were the tag team champions. The WWE was in Atlanta for their Monday night television program, Raw.
The tag champs went out to the ring and did what they liked to call their “Five Second Pose,” A.K.A. they stood in the ring, told everyone in the audience to get their cameras out for a photo-op, and they mocked the sports teams of whatever city they were in at the time. The Braves were coming off their 1999 World Series loss to the Yankees and had also been beaten by the Yanks in the 1996 fall classic.
Edge said to the capacity crowd, “The Atlanta Braves are known for one thing–being the New York Yankees’ personal b*****s.”
Christian then put on a Braves jersey, while Edge sported the Yankee pinstripes. Christian got down on the canvas of the ring, hugging Edge’s ankles while Edge stood proudly with an evil smile on his face and gave a thumbs-up.
The Atlanta faithful responded with a boisterous chorus of boos.
As a Yankee fan, yes, it was hilarious and unbelievably entertaining. But I know that every Braves fan in attendance that night was furious; I believe they all felt the same way I did when Marella put down the Yankees, and more likely than not wanted Edge and Christian’s blood.
Again, wrestlers have the ability to command emotion. They can make you feel happy or so mad you want to beat them up.
Although the WWE wrestlers are known for making references to the Yankees, it works both ways. Numerous Yankees these past few years have admitted their admiration of wrestling.
Johnny Damon, a Yankee of four years, guest hosted Monday Night Raw in December following the Yankees’ 2009 World Series Championship. Damon, although an excellent baseball player, was not the best host for the show. I noticed throughout Damon’s tenure with the Yankees that he stuttered a lot during his postgame interviews; he never really gave the best sound bites for the media.
His stuttering, and in a lot of ways bad acting skills, did not come off looking any good on Monday Night Raw. I can remember saying one thing to myself after the show ended that night:
“Stick to baseball, Johnny. Stick to baseball.”
Wrestling has evolved over the years and has gone through a number of huge changes. These days the WWE’s most popular superstar is a man by the name of John Cena, who has been in movies, has guest starred on TV shows, and has done a lot of charity work for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Basically Cena is the WWE’s top man and its hottest commodity.
In February of 2009, Cena joined Derek Jeter, Tiger Woods (obviously before the controversy), Reggie Bush of the New Orleans Saints, and Denny Hamlin of NASCAR to help launch a new razor–the Gillette Fusion Gamer.
WWE interviewed Jeter and he said he told Cena that he needs to find the time and get out to a WWE show. It was funny to me, simply because I cannot picture in my mind Jeter, the classy captain of the New York Yankees, sitting ringside in an arena alongside a bunch of howling wrestling fanatics.
However, I would love to see it happen. As a person who has attended countless WWE live events, it is quite an experience. I highly recommend going to a WWE show, so I do hope Jeter can eventually “get out to one.”I guarantee he will have fun.
In 2009, the Yankees brought the spirit of WWE to their clubhouse. Pitcher A.J. Burnett’s son gave Damon a replica WWE Championship title belt to keep in his locker. From there on out, the Yankees awarded the belt to whoever was the hero of the game.
For example, Damon hit a walk-off home run on May 17, 2009 vs. the Minnesota Twins. After the game, the team declared him the champion and he got to hold the belt until the next hero was named.
WWE caught wind of this, and as it turned out, they rewarded the Yankees for it. CC Sabathia is good friends with WWE Hall of Famer, Jerry “The King” Lawler, stemming back to his days as a member of the Cleveland Indians–Lawler’s number one favorite team.
According to reports in June 2009, Lawler sent Sabathia an upgraded version of the WWE title. The report also mentioned that instead of the WWE logo, the belt featured the interlocking NY to fit the Yankees.
From what I read, the Yankees eventually signed their original WWE belt and auctioned it off, with the proceeds going to charity. Knowing the WWE and the amount of charity work they undertake on a yearly basis, they were probably very happy with the actions of the Yankees regarding the belt.
To me, wrestling will always be a wonderful art form. Good guys, bad guys, drama, athleticism, high-risk action, exhilaration, and laying it all on the line–the WWE has everything.
Other than football, I can’t think of any other sport that interests me more in the baseball off-season than wrestling. And when the WWE and the Yankees collide, as they have in the past, it is the best feeling in the world for me; it is two of the greatest sports in the world coming together.
And it is my hope that the Yankees and the WWE maintain a great relationship in the future. Perhaps Wrestlemania, WWE’s version of the World Series, could be held at Yankee Stadium.
Talk about a dream come true.
Happy New Year to all!
I apologize for not blogging in quite awhile. I have been busy with work and the holidays set me back, so I haven’t really had a chance to do a lot of Yankee Yapping.
Since my last blog entry, Cliff Lee signed with the Philadelphia Phillies, going back to the city of brotherly love for his second tour of duty. Am I upset the Yankees didn’t land him?
Yes, but only because he was really their only option. Andy Pettitte is expected to retire any day now and looking at things objectively, the Yankees have about two and a half pitchers in their rotation: CC Sabathia, Phil Hughes, and A.J. Burnett, who counts as a half a pitcher.
I checked out the free agent starters on the open market. There’s not much to look at, unless you count Carl Pavano and Ted Lilly as top-notch pitchers–both of whom have already faltered in pinstripes in the past.
Bottom line: the Yankee rotation needs help. And soon. The bullpen? Well…
Pedro Feliciano is coming across town from the Mets. Who knows how he will do, but he better pitch well. Kerry Wood is headed back to the Chicago Cubs, which upset me. He was probably the best part of our bullpen towards the end of last season, outside of Mariano Rivera.
Russell Martin came over from Joe Torre’s Dodgers, and hopefully he will exhibit better skills behind the plate (at least in terms of throwing out runners) than Jorge Posada, who has already been named the 2011 designated hitter.
Posada lost his starting catcher job. Sad, because more likely than not, this is his last year as a Yankee.
Reportedly, the Yankees were talking to Johnny Damon about a possible return. I hope he does come back because I have always liked him. It was a mistake to lose him to Detroit in the first place and I hope a deal can be reached. He would definitely improve the lineup, because everywhere he goes, the team gets better.
I really don’t know what to expect for 2011. I know the Red Sox have certainly improved, adding Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, and Bobby Jenks–joining the already dynamic group of players the Red Sox have, like David Ortiz (who can still hit for power) Dustin Pedroia (pesky little punk) Kevin Youkilis (annoying, strong hitter) and J.D. Drew (who can’t stay healthy with any team but Boston).
Buster Olney already compared the 2011 Red Sox to the Yankee Dynasty teams of the late 1990s.
As much as that scares me, it doesn’t make sense. They haven’t played a game yet. Who knows what kind of team chemistry the BoSox will showcase, and if they will click or stay healthy, or even pitch effectively. I mean, they haven’t even played a game yet.
On paper, they are the best team in the American League. But as Derek Jeter always says, “On paper doesn’t win you ballgames.”
Still, Boston scares me. Their off-season reminds me of what they did prior to 2007 and they went on to win the World Series that year. They missed the playoffs in 2006 and came storming back with a great off-season and a Championship year to follow.
I get the feeling they can do that again, as much as I hate to admit it. Boston is stacked.
But enough about that. Now that I have outlined some of the dreadful thoughts for this upcoming season, and in the spirit of the New Year, I’ll review the top 10 Yankee moments/plays of 2010.
10) CC Sabathia and Phil Hughes Flirt with No-Hitters
2010 was definitely the year of the pitcher. Perfect games and no-hitters were thrown by the likes of Roy Halladay, Ubaldo Jimenez, Dallas Braden, Matt Garza, Edwin Jackson…and almost by Armando Galarraga, but we all know what happened there.
On April 10, CC Sabathia took a no-hitter into the eighth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays. Through 7 2/3 innings, Sabathia shut down the Rays’ potent lineup until Kelly Shoppach lined a sharp single into left field to break it up.
So close. But the Yankees won 10-0 and Sabathia picked up his first win of the year–his first of 21 wins.
Fast forward to 11 days later in Oakland and Phil Hughes on the hill.
The Yankees played the Athletics on April 21, and Hughes nearly tossed a no-no of his own. The 23 year-old righty stud pitched 7 1/3 innings before giving up a come-backer to Eric Chavez–a hit that caromed off Hughes himself. He ended the night with 10 strikeouts, a career-high for him. He only walked two batters.
Although he did not get the no-hitter, the Yankees once again prevailed, beating Oakland 3-1.
9) Opening Day at Yankee Stadium
I feel especially biased towards this day, simply because I was there to witness it.
On April 13 the Yankees celebrated their 27th Championship with a ring ceremony and a game vs. the Los Angeles Angels. It was a glorious day and it meant a lot to me, spending it with my friends and family.
My cousin Thomas got a batting practice ball, the Yankees got their 2009 World Series rings, and I got a whole bunch of memories that will last for the rest of my life.
The Yankees beat the Angels, 7-5.
8) Comeback vs. Boston
May 17 was a memorable night for all Yankee fans.
Down 9-7 in the bottom of the ninth, Alex Rodriguez clobbered a game-tying home run off Yankee pariah/ Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon.
Marcus Thames came up later in the frame and crushed a walk-off home run deep into the left field seats to end the game. Yankees 11, Red Sox 9.
Papelbon walks off in shame, Thames walks off the hero. And the Yankee fans go home with smiles on their faces.
7) Grand Ol’ Days
The Yankees smacked 10 grand slams this season, more bases-loaded home runs in one season than I can ever remember.
Alex Rodriguez had three: May 14 vs. the Minnesota Twins, May 31 vs. the Cleveland Indians, and July 7 at Oakland. Rodriguez now has 21 career grand slams, and he will tie Lou Gehrig for most career grannies (23) if he hits two slams next season.
Jorge Posada crushed two grand slams this year: June 12 and 13 vs. the Houston Astros. Two grand slams in as many games–now that’s impressive.
Robinson Cano also hit two: May 28 vs. the Indians and Aug. 22 vs. the Seattle Mariners.
Curtis Granderson smacked a granny in Baltimore against the Orioles on June 8.
On July 3, Brett Gardner crushed his first career grand slam at home vs. the Blue Jays, a game my friends and I were going to attend. We opted instead to make a trip to Cooperstown to visit the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
I was however at Yankee Stadium on June 20, when Mark Teixeira clobbered a grand slam off Mets’ ace Johan Santana.
It’s safe to say the Yankees did a number on opposing pitching when the bases were loaded in 2010. What’s more, the Bronx Bombers won every game they hit a grand slam in.
6) Derek Jeter’s Inside-the-Park Home Run
On July 22, Derek Jeter rounded the bases all the way for an inside-the-park home run in the Yankees’ game against the Kansas City Royals. It was only his second career in-the-parker, and ironically enough, his first also came against the Royals.
One could argue it was not exactly the prettiest inside-the-park home run, because center fielder David DeJesus had a play on the ball. He could not come down with it however, and he crashed into the plexiglass in right-center field. Jeter caught a break and was able to motor all the way around to tie the game at three.
DeJesus injured himself on the play and was taken out of the game. If he hadn’t fallen down, Jeter may not have been able to complete the home run.
In any event, it was one of the coolest home runs of the year. The Yankees went on to beat the Royals that day by a score of 10-4.
5) Joe Torre vs. The Yankees
Former manager vs. former team. Teacher vs. his students. Joe Torre vs. the Yankees.
In June the Yanks met the Dodgers for a three-game series during interleague play and for the first time since 2007, the Yankees saw their old skipper Joe Torre. It was an interesting weekend; a turning point in the Yankees’ 2010 season.
The Dodgers and Yanks rekindled their old rivalry and traded victories in the first two games. Los Angeles handed the Yankees a decisive 9-4 win in the second game while the Bombers slipped past the Dodgers 2-1 in the first game.
The rubber game looked to belong to the Dodgers, as they led 6-2 in the ninth with flamethrower Jonathan Broxton on the mound. The resilient Yanks would not have any of it, as they rallied to score four runs in the ninth to knot the game at six.
An RBI double by Robinson Cano, a two-run double by Chad Huffman, and a fielder’s choice by Curtis Granderson, and the Yankees are back in it.
Cano came up in the top of the tenth, belting a long two-run home run to left-center. The Yankees went on to win 8-6 and beat their former teacher, winning the series 2-1.
I cannot speak for the rest of the Yankee fans, but to me, it felt SWEET to beat Torre. Sweet.
4) Mark Teixeira’s Big Day in Boston
Once, twice, three times the “Tex Message.”
The Yankees visited the Red Sox on May 8, beating them 14-3. It was one of those great days to be a Yankee fan, to say the least.
Mark Teixeira accounted for a large amount of the scoring, hitting three home runs and driving in five runs on a total of four hits. He scored three runs and became only the second Yankee in history to hit three homers in one game off Boston–second only to Lou Gehrig.
I can remember watching that game with so much joy. Anytime the Yankees embarrass the Red Sox on a Saturday afternoon Fox Game of the Week, it’s a good day.
What also made it more enjoyable was what happened afterward.
The YES Network hosted their “Extra Innings” postgame show, where they ask the audience to write in their thoughts, ideas, or comments. If they like them they use them on the show.
I noticed how Red Sox third baseman Adrian Beltre had eight errors to that point in the season, and it was only May 8. I wrote in a comment and it made it to TV. The YES Network analysts said my name on TV and discussed my comment on the show.
There could not have been a better way to cap off a big Yankee win over the Red Sox.
3) The ALDS
The Yankees swept the Twins in the ’09 American League Division Series and did the same in 2010. This year the Yankees did not have home field advantage and had to win two games at Target Field before coming home to clinch the division.
In all honesty, I thought this year might be the Twins’ moment; I thought it may have been time for the Twins to get over the hump and finally beat the Yanks in the playoffs.
No such luck.
Another year, another early exit at the hands of the Yankees for Minnesota.
Although the ALCS was painful–unbearably, absoluteLEE painful–to watch, sweeping the Twins was a great start to October. After the Yanks swept, I thought history would repeat itself yet again. Unfortunately the magic vanished to the Texas Rangers.
But nothing can take away the feeling of beating the Twins. It was a great feeling.
Alex Rodriguez, one way or another, is going down in the history books. Whether or not people recognize him as the greatest hitter of all-time, or just another major leaguer who tried to cheat the system, he will always be known and remembered.
On Aug. 4 A-Rod crushed his 600th career home run–exactly three years to the day after he hit his 500th home run. He joined baseball’s “600 Home Run Club” with the likes of Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Ken Griffey, Jr., and Sammy Sosa.
A lot of folks, namely the New York Daily News, were quick to judge Rodriguez’s home run as a tainted accomplishment. Many people and baseball fans believe that because Rodriguez admitted steroid usage in his career, the feat means nothing.
Me on the other hand…well, I believe it still means a lot. I have offered my opinion on steroids and do not condone drug usage. However, I believe it takes more than steroids to hit 600 home runs. Plenty of players who were on the juice never came close to 100 home runs, let alone 600.
I still consider it a great moment for A-Rod and a great moment for the Yankee organization.
1) The Game for the Boss and Sheppard
On July 13 the Yankees lost their principle owner. I used to refer to George Steinbrenner as “The Godfather” of the Yankees, and this season he lost his life at the age of 80.
Steinbrenner was the longest tenured Yankee owner in team history and he died just two days after the Yanks lost their longtime public address announcer, the legendary Bob Sheppard.
On July 16, the Yanks’ first game following the All-Star break–and more importantly their first game after losing their Boss (and only their second game after losing Sheppard), they dramatically rallied back to beat the Tampa Bay Rays 5-4.
The night started off in emotional fashion. The team could barely hold in their tears and Jeter, our fearless captain, could hardly keep himself together as he addressed the crowd during the pregame ceremony. There was a two-minute period of dead silence during the ceremony, and not one Yankee fan made a peep.
All that was heard throughout Yankee Stadium during those two minutes: the whipping sounds of the flags blowing in the wind and a passing subway train. That’s how much respect Sheppard and Steinbrenner commanded.
Mariano Rivera placed two long-stemmed roses over home plate in remembrance of their fallen comrades.
The Yanks scuffled a bit during the game, giving the Rays a 4-3 edge heading into the eighth. Nick Swisher had other plans, crushing a game-tying home run in the bottom of the frame before recording the big game-winning hit in the ninth, a single which plated Curtis Granderson.
Yankees win an emotional game for Sheppard and the Boss.
Later in the season, Steinbrenner was honored with a plaque out in Monument Park. The Yankees invited many of their former players and dignitaries, including Joe Torre and Don Mattingly. Everyone filed out to the area behind centerfield and another ceremony was held unveiling the plaque on Sept. 20.
Unfortunately the Yankees could not capitalize and win their 28th title the year of Steinbrenner’s passing. However, it’s important to remember that when he passed away, the Yankees were reigning champions.
Well, that about puts a cap on 2010.
May 2011 bring many more great Yankee memories, and hopefully the 28th World Series Championship.
Pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training next month!