It was another Saturday night, I didn’t have nobody. I had some money, because I had just gotten paid. How I wished I had something to do – and then I went on Twitter and saw that David Wright of the New York Mets had crushed a grand slam homer for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic, putting them ahead 6-2 in front of Team Italy.
I flipped on the game.
OK. So the guy from the other New York team hit a bomb. To me, the World Baseball Classic was still meaningless; a pointless, glorified exhibition which simply takes players away from Spring Training, the players competing for seemingly nothing. Japan won the two previous WBCs (2006, ’09), and my philosophy remained,
“The World Baseball Classic is a joke. Spoiler alert: Japan will win it again, its players will come to the USA/MLB…and suck for their entire careers.”
Daisuke Matsuzaka is my case in point.
But as I continued to watch Teams USA’s game vs. Team Italy, my feelings slowly changed. By the end of the night, I was actually interested in the WBC, a position I never imagined I’d be in when the tournament commenced. A couple of storylines have put me over the top.
First off, Robinson Cano has been an absolute beast in the WBC, playing for his homeland, the Dominican Republic. The studly second baseman was named MVP of Pool C, cracking four extra base hits (including an opposite-field home run), five RBIs, while batting .600 over the first three games.
The DR went on to advance in the WBC; Cano ready to lead his squad against Wright and Team USA tonight, in fact.
Given the concerns and recent, unexpected injuries the Yankees have suffered (Mark Teixeira and Curtis Granderson) it’s overly encouraging to see Cano slaughtering the ball the way he’s been in the WBC. Come April 1, if Cano keeps it up, there won’t be much to worry about when he steps into the batter’s box.
There was also a second piece of WBC business that piqued my interest. Italy had a familiar reliever on its roster: my paison, Brian Sweeney. I only say “had” because last night Team Italia was ousted by Puerto Rico, a come-from-behind effort by way of sloppy Italian defense leading to the Azzuri’s downfall.
I was pleasantly surprised – and in a big way, proud – to see my fellow Mercy College alumnus on the hill in front of a worldwide audience and a packed house at the new Miami Marlins ballpark. As most readers of the blog know, I interviewed Sweeney in July, 2010, weeks after he faced the Yankees in the Bronx.
He went on to make several appearances vs. the Bombers over that summer, and got the likes of Teixeira, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Nick Swisher, and Brett Gardner out. Using his signature changeup which he learned pitching for Mercy, some of the most powerful Yankees didn’t stand a chance against Sweeney.
And during the WBC, Sweeney added some more names to his list of big outs.
In Wright’s first at-bat following his trip to granny’s, Sweeney got the Mets’ third baseman to pop out. He followed suit by walking the Marlins’ own Giancarlo Stanton, Sweeney’s changeup painting the black; barely missing the outside corner for a walk culminating a 13-pitch at-bat. He went on to get catcher Joe Mauer (Minnesota Twins) to fly out to left field and first baseman Eric Hosmer (KC Royals) to foul out behind third.
Not a bad night at the office for a Mercy College grad.
Team Italy had two more losing efforts vs. Cano’s Dominicans and Team Puerto Rico – both narrow losses; one-run games. Over the course of those two games, Sweeney struck out Alejandro De Aza (Chicago White Sox) swinging, and got both got Jose Reyes (Toronto Blue Jays) and Hanley Ramirez (LA Dodgers) to fly out.
Unfortunately Sweeney was on the hook for the loss in last night’s elimination game to Puerto Rico, although the decision was more reflective of shoddy defense: particularly on the left side of the infield’s behalf. Italy’s shortstop Anthony Granato was eaten alive on a number of ground balls, and third baseman Alex Liddi didn’t curb the problems, missing an easy out by coming off the bag at third on a force play.
Yet Sweeney’s participation in the WBC wasn’t what made me entirely proud. After the loss, the 38-year-old journeyman right-hander stood on the top step of the dugout and tipped his cap to the fans and to Team Puerto Rico – a class act, all the way through. Despite the ousting, he showed great sportsmanship and a graceful attitude.
That’s a Mercy College guy for you.
My hope now is that he catches on with a team this spring. Hopefully for him, it’s the Seattle Mariners, seeing as how he told me in the interview he always wanted to pay dividends for them. They gave him a chance in the show; I suppose he feels he owes them.
As for the rest of the WBC, my interest has been sparked. Next time there’s a night within the next couple of weeks before Opening Day and I don’t have nobody – regardless of whether or not I just got paid, I’ll have something to do: watch the WBC.
I have been told in life there are three types of people: those who make it happen, those who watch it happen, and those who wonder what happened.
As a current high school sports reporter and MLBlogger trying to take the next step in his career, I’m at the point where I want to make it happen. And what I have in mind might provide me with that chance.
Recently I was tossing ideas around in my head, thinking of companies to apply to while job hunting, and I somehow managed to venture over to the YES Network’s career page. In the past I’ve checked out the YES Network’s career page, but there was never anything listed. This time was a little different; there was one job posted:
Social Media Specialist.
As soon as I noticed the listing, I jumped on it. I tweaked my resume, pieced together an appropriate, well-written cover letter, and gathered the right material together to apply for the job – the right material basically being proof of all the times YES has used my insight via social media on its TV shows.
On May 8, 2010 YES used a comment I posted on its official Facebook page for the “Extra Innings” postgame show. There were no words to describe my excitement level, seeing my name and comment on TV when it first happened.
Fast forward to April 10, 2011. I wrote in another Facebook comment, and once again YES used my name and my words on “Extra Innings.”
June 9, 2012, same thing.
All of this YES Network social media craze reached new heights on Aug. 6 this year when YES actually used my question during the “YES Network Games,” a contest designed for viewers to tweet in trivia questions with the commentators trying to answer them.
After my name appeared, a few of my friends attempted to stage a Twitter hashtag rally entitled, #HireAJMartelli.
The YES Network should already know (just based on the history) how finely tuned my skills are when it comes to social media. In fact ESPN should also have the same idea, considering two of my comments made it onto the exclusive Baseball Tonight show during the “Chatter Up” segment in 2008 and 2009.
It’s also not as if I’m an uneducated, inexperienced stranger. My past work in other media outside of social media speaks for itself. If I could show something to the YES Network right now, this would be it; some highlights of my young career:
- B.S. in journalism from Mercy College (class of 2010) where I served for two years as the sports editor of the Mercy student newspaper. The Mercy student paper won two New York Press Association awards while I served as sports editor, and I was awarded two Quill Awards (2009, ’10) for sports reporting, given to me by Mercy’s media studies department.
- Interviewed former Yankee and current YES personality John Flaherty while at Mercy and wrote a feature story about his career for the paper.
- Interviewed Brian Sweeney, a Major League relief pitcher who had faced the Yankees weeks before I conducted the interview.
- Worked for the Hudson Valley Renegades in 2010, assisting with baseball operations.
- Went on to cover the 2012 Hudson Valley Renegades this past season. The ‘Gades captured the New York-Penn League Championship, beating the Tri-City Valley Cats. For their successful and winning campaign, the Renegades were voted the 2012 Minor League Baseball team of the year.
- Interviewed two-time Super Bowl Champ and MVP Eli Manning at the sixth annual Guiding Eyes for the Blind Golf Classic this year.
- Have worked for the past two years (and continue to work) as a high school sports reporter. To coincide with the Yankee motif, one of my favorite times covering a high school game was sitting next to Bernie Williams, covering his daughter’s basketball game this past February. I even wrote an OP/ED that ran in the paper about how interesting it was, sitting next to a Yankee legend while working.
But I think what puts it all over the top for me is what you’re reading right now. Yankee Yapping has been lauded by MLB. It has been ranked in the top three MLBlogs and featured multiple times; it has garnered a solid amount of fanfare since I launched it in July, 2009.
The bottom line is, I have done a lot of work and paid a lot of dues. And now, if there is a chance to move up the ladder, I’d like to take it.
To anyone reading this with a Twitter page, and would like to help, tweet the link to this blog to @YESNetwork and help #HireAJMartelli.
Together, we can make it happen. Not watch it happen, or wonder what happened.
In the meantime, I have high school ice hockey to cover this weekend after the holiday. And if you were to ask me what I’m thankful for this Thanksgiving, it’s having a job in the print media field, covering sports. No matter what level it happens to be on.
As the end of the 2010 regular Major League Baseball season rapidly approaches, the Yankees once again have lived to play autumn baseball in New York. At the very least, the Bronx Bombers will go into the postseason as the American League Wild Card team. Yet they can still capture the American League Eastern Division over the Tampa Bay Rays.
At press time they are a ½ game out of first place in the AL East.
With only three games left after tonight’s 8-3 loss vs. the Toronto Blue Jays, it is once again time to hand out the Yankee Yapping End of the Year Awards. Last year I gave out various commendations to numerous Yankees who showed what being a Bronx Bomber is all about.
Since 2010 was a stark contrast to 2009, there are new awards this year to accommodate what each player has done or accomplished this past season. Without any further ado, here are the 2010 Yankee Yapping Awards!
Yankee Yapping Most Valuable Player
Winner: Robinson Cano
The Yankees are very lucky to have a player like Robinson Cano. This season, the slugging second baseman has put together an MVP caliber season with 28 home runs and 106 RBIs to this point. His numbers indicate a great year, but he did not win the YY MVP simply because of his offensive production.
His defense and overall character put him over the top.
In 155 games at second base this season (talk about durability!) Cano has only committed three errors. He has also helped turn 111 double plays and has secured a fielding percentage of .996.
Can you say Gold Glove?
Cano has also had the most consistent season among all Yankee hitters. Derek Jeter is currently hitting under .300, Mark Teixeira got off to a tortoise-like start, and Alex Rodriguez spent time on the disabled list. Cano did not slip under .300 this year, nor did he start off slow or get injured.
His season has all the makings of a valuable player.
Yankee Yapping’s Most Pleasant Surprise
Winner: Marcus Thames
I’ll be the first to admit that when the Yankees let Johnny Damon go…or he let himself go…that I thought picking up Marcus Thames was a bad idea. He had already been a Yankee in 2002, although he was not what we would call a real Yankee.
Everyone knows that, in his first stint in pinstripes, Thames clubbed his first career home run in his first career at-bat off brand-name future Hall of Famer Randy Johnson. What most people don’t know is that home run was the only long ball Thames hit in his first go-round with the Yankees and he only played seven games.
2010 was his second chance and he certainly took advantage of it.
To go along with his batting average of .291, Thames has smacked 12 home runs this year and has driven in 33 runs. Two of his homers this season stand out to me.
First off, his third home run of the year, which came on July 11–only because of who he hit it off: Brian Sweeney of the Seattle Mariners.
As almost everyone knows by now, I interviewed Sweeney over the summer and he is a graduate of my College. That home run was bittersweet for me. I was happy to see Thames get around on a hanging curveball and smash a homer, but at the same time I felt bad for Sweeney.
Being such a nice guy and, without any sarcasm, the best interview I have ever conducted, I had no choice but to feel remorseful for my fellow Mercy alumnus. But Thames did a fantastic job of clubbing the ball!
The second home run that sticks out was his walk-off blast against Jonathan Papelbon and the Boston Red Sox on May 17. After A-Rod tied the game with one swing of the bat, Thames played the role of hero and swatted Papelbon to a loss.
A glorious home run to cap off a glorious victory over Boston in the Bronx.
I may have said some harsh things about him at the beginning of the year when he struggled, but he has proved me wrong. Congrats Marcus!
Yankee Yapping Player Who Needs to Improve for 2011
Winner: A.J. Burnett
He had a terrible season. I know. All of Yankee Universe knows. The whole world knows.
A.J. Burnett has one more start this season (on Saturday in Boston) and will finish 2010 under .500. He is currently 10-15 with an earned run average of 5.33. In his last 10 games Burnett is 1-6 with an ERA of 6.26. Opponents are hitting .286 against him and he has allowed 107 earned runs this season.
If that doesn’t scream the words “off-year” I really don’t know what does.
Many Yankee fans are skeptical about how he will perform in the postseason and would not trust Burnett with the ball in an important game. Yankee Universe also feels he should be bumped from the number two spot in the starting rotation; some are even going as far as saying he should be put in the bullpen.
I agree. He should be bumped from the number two spot and I doubt that he will be plugged into any spot in the starting rotation, at least for the American League Division Series. If he goes to the bullpen, he might be able to carve a niche for himself, the same way Phil Hughes did last year in relief.
Although Burnett had an abysmal year, the one thing I will not do is give up on him. I understand how poorly he produced over the summer, but something many fans forget is that he began the year at 4-0 with an ERA under three. He got off to the best start of his career only to have it collapse on him; the most successful start of his life tragically morphed into the worst season he has ever had.
The other day I was asked if the Yankees would trade Burnett over the off-season because of his poor season.
The answer is easy: No. Here are three reasons Burnett is staying in pinstripes.
1) His salary. He is owed $49.5 million over the next three years. Give me the name of a team who is going to pick up that tab? Oh, that’s right. You can’t.
2) His trade value. With his lopsided numbers, who would want him?
3) The Yankees’ faith in their big free agent pitchers. Anyone remember Carl Pavano? He was owed less money than Burnett, pitched worse than Burnett, and the Yankees held onto him without even trying to shop him.
It’s no contest. Burnett will be in pinstripes for awhile.
And while he is in pinstripes, he needs to learn how to handle himself, go out and win games. I have seen how physically capable Burnett is really is when he is pitching. He can throw 96-98 mph fastballs, something not even Mike Mussina could pull off in 2008, the year he won 20 games.
I think it’s all mental when it comes to Burnett’s struggles. Perhaps he should consult the team psychiatrist. Wait, is there a team psychiatrist?
At any rate, it’s a not a particularly good award to win, A.J. But I still have faith that you can improve, bounce back, have a solid postseason like last year and return strong in 2011.
I still believe in you, A.J. We A.J.s have to stick together through thick and thin.
Yankee Yapping Sayonara Award
Winners: Javier Vazquez and Nick Johnson
First of all, allow me to explain the nature of this award. I am handing out this award to two players who the Yankees signed, are not under contract for next season, and are most likely not coming back next year.
I had no choice but to give it Javier Vazquez and Nick Johnson.
When the Yankees decided to acquire Vazquez during the off-season, I was unbelievably confused. With a somewhat failed season in pinstripes already under his belt (2004) it shocked me that the Yanks went out and traded Melky Cabrera for Vazquez during the winter meetings.
This season just proved to me that Vazquez is not and never was suited for pinstripes. The reason the Yanks wanted him was because of how well he pitched last season, but what they did not take into consideration was that he pitched in the National League.
Vazquez made the move from the NL to the AL, and not just the AL–the AL East, where the best of the best play. And when he made that move, he traveled to a 10-10 record this year with an ERA over five.
That’s enough to say, “Thanks, but no thanks. See ya, Javy.”
Now onto Johnson…
Talk about a waste of money and time. I think his uncle, Larry Bowa, should chastise him for being such a mediocre and otherwise useless ballplayer. The Yanks signed Johnson to be an everyday designated hitter and replace Hideki Matsui in the lineup.
His numbers: 24 games played, two home runs, eight RBIs, and a .167 batting average.
Sorry, I had to run to my bathroom and puke.
Both Vazquez and Johnson are no longer under contract for 2011. Thank God.
Congrats on the award, fellas. Have fun on another team next season!
Yankee Yapping Ace of the Year
Winner: CC Sabathia
When all the dust had cleared at the end of 2009, CC Sabathia had 22 wins, including the postseason. The postseason has not even begun this year and the Yankees’ number one man has 21 wins. With that, he became the first Yankee to win 21 games in the regular season since Andy Pettitte, who accomplished the feat in 1996.
If the regular season is any indication of how Sabathia will perform in October, the Yankees will be in excellent shape every time he toes the rubber. Just as Burnett has had the worst season of his career, Sabathia has statistically had the best season he has ever had.
Needless to say, he is a shoe in for the Cy Young Award. CC might very well be “Cy Cy.”
Sabathia logged 237 2/3 innings this year, coupled with 197 strikeouts. He made 34 starts, tossed two complete games, and opponents only hit .239 against him.
If all goes right for him again, he could capture another postseason MVP award, as he was the American League Championship Series MVP in 2009. Either way, I have no doubt that Sabathia will have more hardware in his trophy case very soon.
Until then he is the Yankee Yapping Ace of the Year. Congrats CC!
*Note: CC has won this award for the second year in a row!
Yankee Yapping Best Trade Deadline Pickup
Winner: Kerry Wood
When the trade deadline neared the end, the Yankees picked up three notable players: Lance Berkman, Austin Kearns, and Kerry Wood. Without a doubt, Wood has made the best impact of all three players.
Wood was the Cleveland Indians’ closer and the Yankees needed to add a reliever to aid their scuffling bullpen. Suffice it to say, they added the right man. Wood has posted a low ERA in pinstripes and has really become a solid arm in relief.
Throughout his career, Wood has taken a lot of criticism because of his injuries; I am sure the Yankees knew about that when they traded for him. However, he was a former National League Rookie of the Year (1998, with the Chicago Cubs) and certainly possessed the capability to change the atmosphere of the bullpen.
It’s almost as if when Wood arrived, things started to turn around for them.
I remember his first outing as a Yankee against the Tampa Bay Rays. When Wood tossed that knee-buckling breaking ball and caught Evan Longoria looking like a deer in headlights, I knew right then and there he would fit in right away.
And he has.
Looking at his last 10 appearances alone is proof of that: 10 innings, no runs, four hits, five walks, 12 strikeouts, and an ERA of 0.00. He has flourished in his role as a late-inning relief pitcher and if he keeps it moving, he will be a wonderful asset when the playoffs begin.
Yankee Yapping Reliever of the Year
Winner: David Robertson
I know what everyone is thinking: how in the world could I have not awarded this honor to Mariano Rivera?! I would just like to say that The Great Rivera is his own “Walking Award,” so-to-speak. Rivera won it last year and he followed that up with another Mo-like season.
32 saves and a puny 1.32 ERA. Typical Mo.
But I am giving it to David Robertson simply because of how far he has come this year. At the outset of the season, Robertson could not get anyone out. He was placed in easy-going situations and lost control of everything.
Case-in-point: Opening Day vs. the Los Angeles Angels.
Robertson came into the game in a situation where there was absolutely no pressure; the Yankees were ahead 7-1 in the top of the ninth inning and he allowed that pressure get to him. He wound up surrendering a grand slam to Bobby Abreu and he nearly gave up the game because of it.
Yet, what struck me was what he said the day after it happened. I remember reading in the news the next day that he grabbed his glove before the game and had two words:
That’s precisely the attitude that won him this award. Well, that and his 67 strikeouts in 59 2/3 innings pitched this season. He never gave up, battled back from defeat, and is a solid and trustworthy arm out of the bullpen.
He deserves the honor. Congrats David!
Yankee Yapping Warrior Award
Winner: Mark Teixeira
As I mentioned before, Mark Teixeira began the season awfully slow. He was singled out on ESPN and every other sports media outlet about how he was not producing along with being criticized for his low batting average and meager power numbers.
But by around June it all changed and the sleeping giant woke up.
The power-hitting first baseman flipped the “on switch” and quickly became the dangerous hitter he has always been. Teixeira will finish 2010 with over 30 home runs and 100 RBIs for his second straight year in pinstripes.
He has 33 home runs and 107 RBIs at press time.
The reason he is regarded as a warrior is because he has been playing for a number of days, possibly even weeks, with a broken toe. Despite a relatively painful injury, he managed to keep himself in the lineup and at first base every day.
Obviously playing in pain, Teixeira maintained his season and never let it affect him; Paul O’Neill, revered as the consummate “Yankee Warrior,” would certainly be proud of him.
Yankee Yapping Grand Slam Champion
Winner: Alex Rodriguez
Whip out the mustard and rye: it’s grand salami!
Not once. Not twice. But three times this season Alex Rodriguez has delivered with the bases loaded. The former three-time AL MVP clobbered three grand slams this season, which accounts for 3/10 of the Yankees’ grand slams this year.
In fact, the Yankees tied their single season record for grand slams, originally set in 1987–Don Mattingly led the Yanks that year with six grannies out of their 10.
On May 14, Rodriguez visited granny for the first time this season. Minnesota Twins reliever intentionally walked Teixeira to pitch to Rodriguez–a strategy that never seems to pay off, according to the numbers. The Yankee third baseman responded by crushing a go-ahead grand slam over the left field wall to give the Yanks a 7-4 edge.
They went on to win 8-4.
On May 31, merely 17 days after the slam vs. the Twins, A-Rod stepped up to the plate against the Indians. With a full count, Rodriguez smashed a bomb into Monument Park, a glorious grand slam home run to give the Yanks a 6-1 lead over the Tribe.
Once again the Bombers cruised to a victory, 11-2 over Cleveland.
Rodriguez struck one last slam on July 6 in Oakland vs. the Athletics. A-Rod helped slam the Yanks to a 6-1 win. He came up in the top of the third and blasted a grand slam off Trevor Cahill, driving in four out of the Yankees’ five runs that inning.
In addition to his slam, Rodriguez later came up in the sixth and hit a solo homer, as he knocked in five of the Yanks’ six runs by himself.
A-Rod’s excellence and ability to come through when the bases are loaded earned him this award. Hopefully he can continue to rake when the postseason starts.
Well that does it for this year. Either way it goes, the Yankees have an opportunity to repeat as World Champs. While whether they win it all or not remains to be seen, it’s clear these standout players made a difference in New York this season.
Congrats to all the Yankee Yapping Award winners and to all of the Yankees.
We’ll see you in October. Good luck!
If I could sum up my summer in one word it would be baseball. Then again, if I could sum up my existence in one word, it would probably be baseball.
Now that the summer is over and school is back in session (for most of us, but not all of us–I graduated college!) I thought I would reflect on everything that was special about this summer. Never in my life have I ever spent a summer that involved the sport of baseball so much. Here are a few reasons baseball has dominated my life for the past three months.
What would a summer be without a few visits to Yankee Stadium to see the Yanks play? Well, it would be a very dull and sad summer. Thankfully that was not the case, as I was able to attend three Yankee games over the vacation.
The first game I went to was on June 15, my 23rd birthday; a World Series rematch with the Philadelphia Phillies, in which the Yankees won 8-3. When I walked into the Stadium that night I remember thinking to myself, “The last time the Yanks and Phillies met at this ballpark, the Yanks hoisted the 2009 World Series trophy over their heads.” I felt very lucky to be at that game.
Five days later I made another trip to the big ballpark in the Bronx for the rubber game of the Subway Series. Yankees vs. Mets; CC Sabathia vs. Johan Santana; it doesn’t get any better than that. Mark Teixeira made it a special day by clubbing a grand slam home run, the only offense on the afternoon. The Bombers went on to beat their cross-town rivals 4-0.
I once again experienced the thrill of Yankee Stadium on Aug. 18 when the Yankees played the Tigers. For the first time I got into Monument Park in the new house and it was nice to see Johnny Damon make his return to the Bronx–as a Tiger. The Yanks won, 9-5. Plus, before the game we got very close to the field. We could practically reach out and touch Joba Chamberlain!
All of these games of course were over the summer. I also attended Opening Day, which was a great way to kick off my baseball summer.
The Yankees were 4-0 at games I went to this year and they are 8-0 at games I have been to in the new Yankee Stadium. My only hope is that they keep winning whenever I go to see them.
Trip to Cooperstown
I don’t want to say this experience changed me at all, but in a way it did. On July 3, my friends and I took a day trip up to Cooperstown, N.Y. to visit the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
I have already written about everything that happened that day, so I won’t re-hash every little detail of the trip. Yet, I will say that the trip increased not only my appreciation for the sport of baseball, but my love for the sport as well.
It was almost as if I was whisked back to the past; Cooperstown provides such a rich history and gives you an old-time feel.
What’s more, as a huge Yankee fan, it relieved me to see that about 80% of the museum was filled with Yankee memorabilia and historic artifacts. Everything from World Series rings and trophies to Babe Ruth’s jersey was on display for all to see.
Every baseball fan needs (and I stress the word NEEDS) to go to Cooperstown at least once in their life. If you do not go, you are truly missing out and history and quite possibly a life-changing experience.
Hudson Valley Renegades
Working for a minor league baseball team all summer certainly played a huge part in how much I was involved with the sport of baseball this summer. I have shared several stories about things I have done, players I have spoken to, and how much fun it was to get to know my coworkers.
The ‘Gades’ season ended on Sunday and it was a great way to go out: a win over the Lowell Spinners, who are a farm team affiliated with the Boston Red Sox. The Renegades finished with a winning record of 39-36 and it was pretty cool that I got to be a part of their family for the summer.
As it turns out, Rick Zolzer, one of the main bosses from the organization, took notice of “Yankee Yapping” and now wants me to take over the Renegades blogging. He also knows some writers at MLB.com and he said he would mention me to them, which makes me really happy; I would be ecstatic to get my foot in MLB.com’s door. After all, writing and working for them is my ultimate goal.
Now that the summer is over, there is still more baseball to look forward to. The Yankees are playing for their postseason lives and need to pick things up. 1-5 in their last six games is not a good sign, but they can pick up the slack and regain their livelihood.
Tonight CC Sabathia toes the rubber against the Tampa Bay Rays in hopes of playing the role of “stopper.”
The Yankee ace is also looking for his 20th win of 2010.
Believe. It’s a motto Seattle Mariners’ reliever Brian Sweeney goes by. Believe in yourself, believe in God, just believe and you will be fine.
On July 1, Sweeney, a native of Yonkers, N.Y., pitched at Yankee Stadium; a scoreless, 1-2-3 inning in which he got Ramiro Pena, Brett Gardner, and Derek Jeter out. He later went on to face the Yanks on July 11 in Seattle and got the likes of Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, and Nick Swisher out. At press time, Sweeney is 1-1 with a 3.68 ERA.
But his story begins long before facing the Bronx Bombers. Sweeney recently talked to Yankee Yapping about his journey through baseball, where he learned his knee-buckling changeup, and how he was punk’d the night before he was called up to the big leagues.
Yankee Yapping: You started at Archbishop Stepinac High School, and then moved on to Mercy College. Could you describe what it was like to pitch for the Flyers (now known as the Mavericks) and what did you major in while you were there?
Brian Sweeney: Pitching for Mercy was an incredible learning experience. I learned about hard work, dedication and how important it was to not give in, no matter what the circumstance.
Our records each season were not very good but it was not for lack of effort. I learned how to lose which is an important aspect in my professional life.
Learning how to lose helped me want to win more!
We lost off the field as well, because our assistant coach passed away in a car accident my freshman year. I also learned my changeup from my head coach at Mercy that I still use today.
My major was biology.
YY: Growing up, was there any specific team or player you looked up to?
BS: I was a Yankee fan growing up and my idol was Don Mattingly.
YY: You made your MLB debut for the Seattle Mariners on Aug. 16, 2003. What was your initial reaction when you got the call to the show?
BS: There was an unbelievable feeling of satisfaction. I knew from when I was four years old that I wanted to be a professional baseball player. Granted I wanted to play shortstop for the Yankees, but after seven years of work in the minor leagues, I have finally accomplished my goal of getting to the big leagues.
People spend seven years in school to become doctors and lawyers, but I would certainly say my schooling helped me become a big league baseball player.
YY: After you spent a year with the Mariners, you went to San Diego to pitch for the Padres. What was the move like, going from the American League to the National League?
BS: The move wasn’t a big deal, except I wanted to stay with the Mariners my whole career. They brought me up and I wanted to pay dividends for them. I guess I can do that now that I’m back in Seattle. Both San Diego and Seattle are classy organizations. I only wish they were closer to home for me and my family, though!
YY: On May 7, 2006, you earned your first career save in a 6-3 Padres’ victory over the Chicago Cubs. As a relief pitcher, how did that feel and would you rather have a win or a save?
BS: It was a pretty cool experience considering our closer was Trevor Hoffman. He had pitched, like, five days in a row and he had the day off so they put me in the closer role that day. Everybody in the stands expected Hoffy to run out of the bullpen, but they got me that day.
All things winning are good, so I prefer both.
YY: At the end of ’06 you made your way to Japan and pitched for the Nippon-Ham Fighters. The story in the Journal News said, “You could go on all day about the differences between pitching in Japan and the United States.” Is there anything that you miss about Japan, now that you’re back in the States?
BS: I miss some of the drills that were conducted over there. For instance, they would put the pitchers at shortstop and it really was a great workout. I also miss some of my teammates. I played with Yu Darvish, who is an excellent player and a classy individual. Overall, it was a lot of fun to play in Japan.
I would also say I miss the food there. It was tremendous!
YY: This past April you came back, signed a deal with the Mariners, and then you were sent to the minors. Exactly two months later you were back in the majors. How did it feel to be back, considering you went right back to where you started (in Seattle) Was it a kind of homecoming for you? How happy were your teammates for you?
BS: It felt like I was in a time machine. All I could say was, “Where am I?”
Coming back and getting called up was satisfying, especially since I was able to go back to the Mariners–the team that bred me for seven years. It was like a homecoming, but I also had to get to know a lot of my teammates.
The only one I really knew from my first stint with the Mariners was Ichiro. It was fun to catch up with him and we talked a lot about Japan. It was a learning process to get to know the rest of the players. It took some time, but I got to know them all.
YY: Recently on July 1, you pitched at Yankee Stadium–a scoreless, 1-2-3 7th inning in which you got Ramiro Pena, Brett Gardner, and the legendary Derek Jeter out.
Your family was there, holding signs that read “believe” on them. Could you maybe give me the story behind that, and what did it feel like to be pitching at Yankee Stadium against its most beloved player? Did you change your pitching approach when Jeter stepped into the box?
BS: Believe is a word my children use (they are 11 and 6). It’s a strong word that means a lot and it pays dividends over time; believe in yourself, believe in God. My family jumped on that. They made signs that read “Believe” on them and it was meaningful to me that they did that.
I later found out that the Mariners’ team expression is “Believe Big.” It’s just a positive word.
As for Jeter…
I did the same thing with him that I did with the other hitters; same approach. Obviously he is one of the most celebrated ballplayers on the Yankees and he was a nice challenge.
The only thing that was different about him was that he took a long time to get into the batter’s box. I wish he had gotten into the box a little faster! Maybe he was trying to slow me down? It could just be his routine.
YY: At the moment your career record is 4-1. Of those four wins, which one would you say (if you can) was the most memorable, or rewarding?
BS: My first win was certainly the most rewarding. On June 29, 2004, San Diego needed a starter to face the Arizona Diamondbacks–and not just the D’Backs, but Randy Johnson.
Johnson had 3,992 career strikeouts and was going for 4,000. In that game, he got to 4,000 and I was two of them; I had to hit against him because it’s the N.L. We did however win the game 3-2 and it was a great feeling.
The next day I actually met Randy and talked to him, which also made it memorable.
YY: What’s the best story you have from being an MLB pitcher? When I interviewed John Flaherty (a former MLB catcher) he said he was hung over the day he was called up to the majors. Do you have a story like that?
BS: Oh brother! I know John very well and it’s pretty funny that he was hung over when he was called up! I have a story like that…
The night before I was called up I was out with a longtime roommate of mine. We had a few beers and then Jim Slaton, one of the coaches said, “I’m fired because the team isn’t pitching well.” I didn’t take it very well and had some choice words.
Finally he stopped me and said, “Just kidding. You’re going to the big leagues tomorrow.” I practically passed out; all the work I put in had finally paid off.
I was so happy, but I couldn’t get in touch with my dad right away because of the massive blackout that hit the east coast in the summer of 2003. I wanted my dad to be the first to know, because he was and still is a huge part of my success.
There has been so much going on lately!
Instead of writing a whole bunch of different blog entries, I decided to write a little different this time–just for this time, since there are so many topics I want to cover.
First things first…
- We lost a legend today. Bob Sheppard, at the age of 99, passed away. I put this
loss up there with losing Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio in 1995 and 1999, respectively.
Sheppard was the voice of Yankee Stadium for over 50 years and life will just not be the same without him; it hasn’t been, ever since he stopped announcing games at Yankee Stadium in 2007. He officially retired back in November.
Mr. Sheppard, you will ALWAYS be remembered as a classy, dignified, and honorable man. They say true legends will live forever, and you will certainly live forever in the minds of the Yankee fans.
“I have one style of speaking. It’s the same, whether it be at Yankee Stadium, at home, in the classroom, or when I lector at Mass.“–Bob Sheppard.
- I have been especially busy this week at my job with the Hudson Valley Renegades. After a walk-off win on Friday night, we were beaten on Saturday night at the hands of the Auburn Doubledays.
Although we lost, there was a little ceremony before the game that really made me think. At Dutchess Stadium, there is a Scout’s Hall of Fame; a place dedicated to honor important people who helped recruit players.
Last night the Renegades honored Bob Miske, a scout who worked for the Yankees and the Los Angeles Dodgers, among other organizations. He told a cool story about Tommy Lasorda for his induction speech, and how he became friends with him.
Yet before he spoke, an excellent point was brought up: why is there no Scout’s Wing to the National Baseball Hall of Fame? Of course all the legendary players and great writers are enshrined in Cooperstown, but where is the recognition for the people who pick out the young players who go on to become larger-than-life superstars?
It’s a great point. When you think about it, someone picked Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez out of a ton of other players. From there, they went on to become who they are today. Shouldn’t the person who discovered them get some credit?
I think they should.
The baseball scouts also dedicate their lives to the business. They travel around the country going to high school and college baseball games with nothing but a book, a pen, and a radar gun, looking for the next top player. Since they dedicate such a big part of their lives to the game, they should certainly be recognized for it.
Congratulations to Miske on being honored by the Renegades. We appreciate your effort.
Also on a side note, Renegades’ manager Jared Sandberg (who I recently found out is Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg’s nephew) was standing right next to me during the ceremony…I snapped a picture of him via my camera phone very discreetly before it ended.
- How nice has CC Sabathia been? His victory over the Seattle Mariners today marked his eighth win in as many opportunities.
The Yankee ace has a total of 12 wins this season and only three losses. He is traditionally known as a “second half player,” meaning he usually puts up his best work in the second half of the season after the All-Star break. It’s pretty scary to think how many wins he could potentially reach if he keeps winning the way he is.
I’m not necessarily saying he’ll win another 12 games over the second half of the year and reach a mind-numbing 24 wins, but 20-21 wins is certainly looking possible at press time. As far as the Cy Young Award goes, it could be him. David Price certainly has a little bit of an edge halfway through the season, but as I said if Sabathia keeps going the way he is, he’s a definite candidate.
It’s great to have an ace/horse like him on our side. If his good friend Cliff Lee had become a Yankee (as it looked like he was going to be on Friday) it would have been VERY scary; to have two number one pitchers like Lee and Sabathia on the same team is frightening. To have them on the same team that already has the best record in baseball, is just plain terrifying.
But of course the Lee deal fell through and he went to the Texas Rangers. But wait until next year. The Rangers are never going to be able to pay him after this year and it’s quite possible Lee will be in pinstripes in 2011.
As for Sabathia, it’s just business as usual. He is slated to pitch again on Friday vs. Tampa Bay at home. If he wins that game, it’s pretty much a given that he’ll at least reach 20 wins this season.
- In the fifth inning of today’s game Marcus Thames crushed his third homer of the year, a long shot high off the foul pole in Seattle.
It was kind of a bittersweet home run for me.
Thames hit that home run off Brian Sweeney, a fellow alumnus of my alma mater Mercy College and a journeyman pitcher from Yonkers, N.Y. I recently had the chance to talk to Sweeney, and he agreed to do an interview with me for the blog. (He is such a nice guy, by the way!)
Sweeney also pitched on Thursday night; he got Jorge Posada to bounce into a double play and got through the eighth inning without giving up an earned run. I’ll admit I was rooting for him. I wanted him to get the Yankees out. After he surrendered the homer to Thames today, he got Jeter, Mark Teixeira, Nick Swisher, and Rodriguez out.
He gave up two runs in the fifth but went 1-2-3 in the sixth. I was proud.
To me, Sweeney serves as an inspiration. He has made me realize that graduates of my college CAN really go on to do great things. I sometimes have very little faith in myself, especially now considering I’m a recent college graduate struggling to find a real job (I like working for the Renegades, but it’s an internship; it’s going to be over by the end of the summer).
But I look at Sweeney, pitching for a Major League Baseball team. He came from the same place I did and has reached a great place in life. It gives me hope and encouragement and makes me believe that I can do something great with myself, if I work hard enough.
When I heard John Flaherty mention Mercy College on the YES Network this afternoon and on Thursday night, it made me smile; it made me very proud. It also made me wonder if Flaherty would mention when he visited Mercy last year; I interviewed him and wrote a feature article about him when he came, as I was the sports editor of the school paper.
It was, by far, my favorite story that I wrote in college.
I’m actually still trying to get in touch with Flaherty; I’d like to send him the story I wrote on him. Unfortunately, I can’t find a way to get in touch with him at the moment. I’ll keep trying though and eventually I’ll get a hold of him. I’d like for him to see all the nice things I wrote about him.
As for Sweeney: I am proud of him, and I’m sure the rest of the Mercy College community is, too. I’ll be talking to him soon and when I get my interview with him, it’ll be posted here right away!
Lastly, I’d like to thank my good friend Micheal Robinson for coming up with a new picture for the Yankee Yapping Facebook page. He is a wonderfully skilled person when it comes to graphic design and he is a genius with photo-shop.
It looks great, buddy. I love it and thank you once again!