“Fumbling his confidence and wondering why the world has passed him by” – must be the motto of Alex Rodriguez’s life right now.
In about a week position players will be reporting to camp, preparing for the Spring Training grind. But it won’t be the case for A-Rod, the third baseman out until at least after the All-Star break – perhaps the entire season, depending on who you talk to.
Surgery to repair muscles in Rodriguez’s left hip on Jan. 16 was successful, yet it came with a price. Rehab for this particular procedure could potentially collect $28 million from the Yankees – money the Yanks will have to pay A-Rod to simply watch the action from the bench all season.
You’d think that would be enough to squash Rodriguez for one lifetime. Think again.
Ten days after his surgery A-Rod was linked to performance-enhancing drugs for the second time in his career, news breaking that he purchased HGH and other PEDs from a clinic known as Biogenesis, located in Rodriguez’s home state of Florida. Reports surfaced that the head of Biogenesis, Anthony Bosch, would go to A-Rod’s Miami home and personally inject him with steroids.
Right away Rodriguez denied the allegations, but perhaps the most significant aspect of the whole ordeal: not one of his teammates spoke up for him; no Yankee going to bat for A-Rod. Except for maybe Derek Jeter, who only had one thing to say:
“Let him speak first.”
Although this writer would hardly even call that “sticking up for your teammate.”
Since then the Yankees have tried to find a way out of his 10-year, $275 million contract – a pact that has five years and $114 million remaining. Their efforts to void his contract were futile, however, only because when the Yanks first struck the mega-deal with A-Rod, they made sure to provide no way out for the third baseman.
Why did the Yankees do this? Time for a history lesson.
A-Rod could do no wrong in 2007. Coming off a 2006 season in which he struggled mightily in clutch situations (despite putting up staggering numbers: 35 HR, 121 RBIs, .290 BA), he was nothing short of spectacular. It seemed whenever the Yankees needed a big hit in ’07, A-Rod was up .
And he always delivered.
In the midst of his 2007 MVP season, the Yankees wished to restructure his contract, knowing he was going to be able to opt out of it when the season concluded. Rodriguez wasn’t quick to jump at the chance to negotiate mid-season, and turned the Yanks down, forcing the organization’s hand.
Basically, in not so many words, the Yankees responded to Rodriguez’s refusal to negotiate by saying, “if you choose to opt out, we aren’t chasing after you.”
However when A-Rod did opt out – in the middle of the World Series, prompting another mess of criticism – the Yankees caved in and offered him the ironclad giant deal that is currently sticking them when the sun doesn’t shine.
The only way for the Yankees to dismiss Rodriguez, as of now, is for A-Rod to hang up his cleats and retire. Call it a hunch, but at 37 (though he’ll turn 38 on July 27) retirement just doesn’t seem imminent for A-Rod.
Last week Rodriguez made the front pages again, a report claiming that he said the Yankees and MLB are out to get him; baseball looking for a reason to bring him down.
Could it be paranoia, or just a way to get fans feeling sorry for him, back on his side?
Either way, A-Rod’s career will forever be mired in controversy. Even in his brightest days of 2007, the media went after him, finding pictures of him coming out of a club with a “mystery blonde” while he was still married.
Of course then it broke in 2008 that he and Madonna were an item, and remember, he tried to pick up some girls during the playoffs last year – a postseason in which he miserably failed, batting a measly .118 with no homers, no RBIs, and 12 strikeouts, proving his on-the-field strife is just as relevant as his off-the-field vexations.
Oddly enough, throughout this A-Rod chaos, only one person comes to my mind: Jason Giambi.
Like Rodriguez, Giambi was linked to PEDs, and had a sort of up-and-down, roller coaster-like tenure with the Yankees. In 2004, Giambi played only 80 games and didn’t do much for the Yankees living off a fat contract.
However, he rebounded and ended up hitting 32 or more home runs in three of his final four seasons in pinstripes. Not to mention when Rodriguez went through his trifles in 2006, Giambi was the one who stepped up and told A-Rod to “man up.”
That kind of attitude is probably why Giambi, even at 42, is still hanging around the game, the former Yankee signing a minor league deal with the Cleveland Indians today.
The only way for A-Rod to find any more success in pinstripes is to heed Giambi’s words. Man up. Perhaps revert back to what he once was; turn back the clock to his glory days.
Otherwise he won’t be remembered for anything great he accomplished as a Yankee. His 2005 and 2007 MVP seasons will fade in the minds of the Yankee fans; his solid championship season of 2009 will be forgotten.
A-Rod will only be remembered as a weak individual who cracked at every corner. The Bronx Bomber who took the highest fall from grace in the history of the Yankees. A man trapped inside the vortex of a troubled life – like a mouse caught in a maze.
And I suppose that’s just it. Be a man, A-Rod. Or, well, be a mouse.
This afternoon I found myself organizing a bunch of documents on my laptop. School assignments from my College years, newspaper articles from the school paper, and all of my recent work assignments were stockpiled in my computer folder.
I came across a personal experience story I had to write for my feature writing class in May of 2009. It should come as no shock that I wrote about my experience from the first trip I took to the new Yankee Stadium.
Reading this back, I felt like a little kid. It was priceless. I figured it might be nice to share it on here; put it on the blog. Most of the pictures in this entry are ones I shot that day.
I was exhausted as I looked out the window on the train ride home. As a die-hard baseball fan, I had just been through an absolute whirlwind. The day of my baseball-loving life.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009 was a very special day for me. I was privileged enough to make my first trip with my friends and family to the new Yankee Stadium.
In only the sixth regular season game at the new ballpark, the New York Yankees hosted the Oakland Athletics in an afternoon game.
Wearing my pinstriped Mariano Rivera jersey on my back and one of my many fitted Yankee caps on my head, I met up with my friends, Brian and Jenn, and my cousin Joe for what would be a memorable day.
On the train ride to the Bronx, we really did not know what to expect, other than a great time. I, for one, was not sure if the new Stadium would live up to the hype.
Sure, it looks incredible on television and in the newspapers, but how is it going look in-person? Will it be the same feeling as enjoying a game at the old Stadium? I couldn’t help but think.
We walked off the number four subway in the Bronx to an overwhelming site: The new Yankee Stadium in all its glory.
As we approached the building, we did not know what we were in for.
“The Kingdom of Heaven!” I exclaimed, while I was glaring at the building.
“This place looks absolutely amazing, and we are not even inside yet.”
The first thing we had to do was take pictures. I reached into my bag and pulled out my camera. I shot the façade of the stadium. I snapped pictures of the new Babe Ruth Plaza outside the Stadium.
And I got a picture of the new electronic game day board that read, “Oakland Athletics vs. New YorkYankees Today1:05.”
With seats in the bleachers, we were unsure of where to enter. If you had seats in the bleachers at the old Stadium, you could only enter through the back of the building. But we wanted to see everything in the new stadium. We walked up to Gate Six, and asked where to go.
“As long as you have your ticket, you can enter at any gate,” the gentleman informed us. “It doesn’t matter if you’re in the bleachers. We treat everybody equally at this Stadium!”
We happily entered the gate, right into the Great Hall. What I saw left me in disbelief. Yankees everywhere I looked.
“Wow,” I said in amazement. “I…I just can’t believe this. This place is unreal.”
Of course we had to take more pictures. My friends got a shot of me standing in the Great Hall with all the Yankee banners behind me.
Reggie Jackson. Paul O’Neill. Thurman Munson. Me. What a picture.
After walking around and snapping a ridiculous amount of photos, we finally settled into our seats. Left field bleachers, Section 236, row five, seat 16. That was mine.
It was about11:00 a.m.by the time we made it to the seats. The A’s were out on the field, stretching and taking batting practice.
I noticed so many baseballs fly out of the park. One flew right over our heads, landing about 20 feet away. Not long after that, one came within ten feet of Joe’s seat, landing directly in the glove of the kid next to him.
“Holy cow,” I said. “Pretty close!”
I then took a few minutes to take it all in. I looked at the frieze which now surrounds the top of the entire stadium. I looked out at the field. I looked at the flags around the top of the stadium, indicating the league standings.
“We are in second place right now,” I noted. “Right behind Toronto.”
And then I beheld the press box, which is located in the mezzanine behind home plate.
“I’ll be there someday,” I quietly said to myself.
“I just need my journalism degree, which I’ll be getting very soon, and a little bit of time to work my way up. I’ll be sitting up there with the rest of the writers, eventually.”
It had started to lightly rain during batting practice, and I began to feel very skeptical as to whether or not the game was going to be played. There was rain in the forecast, and I was not certain they were going to get it in.
But the grounds crew thought differently. They did not come out to put the tarp on the field. They chalked the lines and the batter’s box, raked the mound, and put the bases in, as if they were starting the game on time.
Then I noticed CC Sabathia chug from the dugout to the outfield to play long toss with the bullpen catcher. Pitching Coach Dave Eiland and Jorge Posada soon followed Sabathia out to centerfield.
I felt a little more confident now that the pitcher was warming up.
“If the game was not going to start on time, they would not have CC out there throwing,” I thought to myself. “We’ll see some baseball today.”
It got to be 1:00, and the P.A. announcer gave us the starting lineups. Oaklandfirst. The visitors are always announced first. Then the home team.
“…And for the Yankees: led by their manager, number 27, Joe Girardi. Batting first, the shortstop, number two, Derek Jeter!”
I could not contain myself as each Yankee was announced. I am a passionate Yankee fan, and I marked out for every single Yankee in the lineup.
“YAY, Derek! YAY Johnny! YAY BigTex!” …and so on.
Then came the National Anthem. And after the on-the-field warm-ups, the start of the game.
The first pitch was so exciting. Everybody was up and cheering. The roar of the crowd gets to you, even as a fan. I don’t know how the players handle it, but as a fan, it’s extremely intense.
After the first pitch, which was ball one from Sabathia, we heard it.
“Bald Vinny,” the main bleacher creature who always sits in right field, started the Yankee roll call. He did this for every game in the old Stadium and apparently the tradition lives on.
“Some things will never change,” I said with a smile on my face.
I watched as the fans standing in the bleachers cried out for every Yankee until they were acknowledged. I could only laugh as I watched right fielder Nick Swisher turn around, face the bleacher creatures, and salute them, as if he was an Army soldier.
In the top of the second inning, Oakland catcher Kurt Suzuki slaughtered Sabathia’s offering to left field. Brian, Jenn, Joe and I all stood up as we gazed at the ball flying out to left field.
It carried far enough for a fan sitting in the front row to snatch the ball. He closed his glove and caught the ball for a three-run Oakland home run.
As the boos reverberated throughout the Stadium, Girardi came out to argue that the fan interfered.
“Here we go again,” I said. “Just like Sunday against Cleveland – bring on instant replay!”
The umps went into the tunnel for what seemed like only five minutes to decide whether or not the ball was a home run.
“Here come the umps,” Brian said to me as they walked from the third base tunnel out onto the field. “I hope it gets overturned!”
Third base umpire Brian Gorman twirled his index finger, signaling that the ball was indeed a goner. The Yankees were now down, 3-0.
A little depressed, we knew the Yankees needed a spark. Being down 3-0 early on in the game never puts any fan in a good mood.
But the bottom of the second inning lifted our spirits in a great way.
Hideki Matsui stepped up to the plate, and cracked a long, solo homer into the right field seats, putting us back within two runs.
“YES! I joyfully cried out. “We’re back in it!”
After Matsui’s blast, I high fived everyone around me, including two Yankee fans I had never met.
It doesn’t matter if you don’t know the other fans when a Yankee hits a home run. We’re all Yankee fans, which makes us family at the game.
“That’s what I’m talking about,” one of the fans said to me as I slapped his hand.
The next batter was Melky Cabrera. We had just seen one Yankee home run, and Cabrera made it two.
Back-to-back jacks – the first set of back-to-back home runs in the new house, in fact. Cabrera clobbered Oakland starter Brett Anderson’s offering into the area right below us.
Again, I yelled out, “YES! 3-2!”
While Cabrera rounded the bases, I borrowed Yankee announcer John Sterling’s cheesy catch-phrase and shouted, “The Melk-man always knocks twice!”
With the Yankees now trailing by only one run at the end of the second inning and the rain pouring down rather steadily, we had no choice but to leave our seats and take cover.
One of the best facets of the new stadium are the standing rooms. You can leave your seat, and still view the on-the-field-action.
Now protected from the rain and perched over the centerfield gate with Monument Park beneath us, we stood and watched Sabathia and the Yankees give up another run in the top of the third, making the score 4-2.
“Are you kidding me? This just is not right,” I told Joe while shaking my head in confusion.
Down 4-2, the Yankees received a much-needed lift in the bottom half of the third.
With Posada on second and Teixeira on third, Robinson Cano was able to push Teixeira across the plate for a run, bringing the Yanks back within one.
Soon after Nick Swisher came up and singled to drive in Posada, knotting the game at four runs apiece.
“Alright, we’re making some progress here,” I said as I peered out onto the field at the end of third inning.
“I have a gut feeling we’ll be on top when this game is all said and done.”
In the bottom of the fourth inning, we were treated to yet another Yankee home run. This time it was the Captain.
Jeter came up and blasted a solo home run directly below us in centerfield, taking the ball into Monument Park. If you looked closely enough on the replay, for a split second, you could just see the group of us cheering on the home run from the standing room platform above centerfield before it landed.
“Way to go, Captain! He did it again,” I gleefully exclaimed.
According to the scoreboard, Jeter was playing in his 2,000th career game. A home run must have been a nice way to remember it by.
Oakland would get a run back off Sabathia in the top of the sixth, as Mark Ellis singled to score Jack Cust.
I could hear the other fans’ disgust at Sabathia’s pitching.
“Why does this guy suck? He’s terrible,” I heard one upset fan say.
“Go back toMilwaukee, you waste of money,” I heard another disgruntled fan cry out.
The bad feelings towards Sabathia temporarily evaporated in the bottom of the sixth, as the Yankees re-took the lead.
Tied at five, Jeter doubled to score Cody Ransom, and Teixeira singled to score Jeter, giving the Bronx Bombers a 7-5 edge.
“This is real Yankee baseball,” I thought to myself. “It doesn’t matter how bad CC is, as long as the offense does its job.”
With the Yanks up by two at the end of six, we decided to leave the standing area and see the rest of the palace.
The new stadium offers so much, and there’s a lot to see and do. We heard that there was museum inside the ballpark, open to the fans. We asked around, and found out that we had just enough time to visit the museum before it closed.
So we went.
We walked in the Yankee museum, and just as I had been blown away coming off the subway, I was taken aback by everything in the room. There was so much to see.
We took pictures with the World Series trophies from the 1996, 1998, 1999, and 2000 Championship years. The years I fell in love with the Yankees and with baseball.
I couldn’t help but think of the great teams of those years, and how much I loved watching them at the old Stadium.
“I remember when Tino Martinez crushed that grand slam into the upper deck in right field in first game of the ’98 series,” I said to Brian.
“Tino was one of the greatest players to ever put on the pinstripes, and my favorite during the dynasty.”
Then we made our way to the “ball wall,” an incased shelf of baseballs autographed by practically every player ever to wear a Yankee uniform.
I was amazed, saying to my friends and cousin, “Hey, look here’s Yogi! Oh man, it’s Jeter’s ball. And here’s Tino’s! And the greatest player to ever live: Babe Ruth.”
After viewing the ball wall, we journeyed over to the replica clubhouse locker. You can type your name into the computer, and it will appear above the locker, as if you are in the Yankee clubhouse as a player.
I typed my name in, and it appeared.
“A.J. Martelli” appeared above the locker, much to my delight.
I thought to myself, “This is what it feels like to be a Yankee. It feels pretty good.”
Of course, I got a picture of me in the locker with my name posted over my head to remember it by.
As all this was going on, we noticed on the high definition television screen that Sabathia was blowing the lead.
Ex-Yankee and current Athletic Jason Giambi grounded out to short while Bobby Crosby scored, and Matt Holliday singled to score Ryan Sweeney, knotting the game again, this time at seven.
Sabathia exited to a mixed reaction from the Yankee faithful, and those bad feelings toward him from the sixth inning came back.
We made our way out of the museum, and back to a standing area, this time by first base.
We could only look on as the Yankees and A’s could not get anything offensive going. With the game still knotted at seven heading into the top half of the ninth, we watched Mariano Rivera come in to pitch.
As Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” blared through the new stadium speakers and Rivera dashed in from the bullpen, it all looked so different to me.
“It’s so weird to see him enter from right field,” I said. “I’m so used to seeing him come in through the left field gate.”
The new Stadium features the Yankee bullpen behind the right field fence, in contrast to the old Stadium, where it sat behind left-center.
Rivera mowed through the A’s in the top of the ninth. The Yankees could not generate a winning run in the bottom of the ninth, and the game went into extra innings.
The 11th. The 12th. The 13th. After awhile we found ourselves completely wiped out.
With our legs tired and already harboring a seven and a half-hour day at the stadium, we contemplated whether or not to stay or hit the subway back to Grand Central.
“If they don’t win after the 13th, you want to head out?” I asked.
“We are all really tired, I don’t care what we do,” said Brian.
“I just hope they win, either way!”
With sore legs from walking, a horse voice from cheering, and a tired mind, my friends, my cousin, and I made our way back to the subway.
Many others had the same idea, as the subway was crammed with Yankee fans.
“Was this your first game at the new stadium?” a man wearing a Yankee hat sitting across from me asked.
“Yeah,” I replied.
“How’d you like it?” he followed up.
“It was amazing. I can’t believe how stunning the Stadium really is. The television does not do it justice. You have to come down here and physically enter the building to really appreciate it,” I again replied.
He agreed with everything I said.
When we reached Grand Central, we found that the Yankees were still playing in the top of the 14th inning.
We finally boarded the train back home, exhausted and worn out. However, I was not going to rest until I found out if the Yankees had won or lost.
Strangely enough, I looked out the train window as we passed the Stadium on the way home. Staring in awe at the ballpark from the train, I received a text message from another friend, Micheal.
“Melky just hit a walk-off homer in the bottom of the fourteenth. Yankees win!”
As I was glaring at the “Kingdom of Heaven” from the train, the Bronx Bombers were celebrating at home plate, mobbing Cabrera in a 9-7 Yankee victory. The first walk-off home run in the new Yankee Stadium. History.
I smiled, and knew that even though we didn’t exactly see the game-winner, it was like I did.
I was satisfied knowing that I’ll always remember my first trip to the new stadium. I was just an infant when my parents took me to my first game in the old stadium. I can’t exactly remember that first visit to the old ballpark vividly.
But now I’ll have memories that will last for the rest of my life. Memories from my first trip to the new Stadium that I’ll remember forever.
Exhausted and staring out the window as we passed Dobbs Ferry, I finally shut my eyes.
The Yankees won. Now I could rest easily.
Peter Brand: It’s only been a few days. You have to give yourself some time to get over it.
Billy Beane: I don’t get over these things. Ever.
After nearly beating the god-like New York Yankees in the 2001 American League Division Series, all hope seems to be lost for Oakland Athletics’ General Manager Billy Beane (Brad Pitt). He loses three of his key players to free agency – Jason Giambi, Johnny Damon, and Jason Isringhausen – and is forced to rebuild the A’s.
Beane travels to Cleveland to discuss potential trades with the Indians’ General Manager when he discovers Peter Brand (Jonah Hill). Brand is a player analyst whose opinion is valued by the Cleveland brass. Beane recognizes that and instead of gaining a player, buys Brand from the Indians and hires him as the assistant GM.
Together Beane and Brand use a philosophy no other team had ever utilized: signing players who are not necessarily power hitters, players who hit for average or players who rack up a great number of RBIs, but possess the ability to get on base.
They sign players who are on the downside of their careers, like David Justice, Jeremy Giambi, and Scott Hatteberg. Each of these players lack many of the tools needed to play the game, but have one thing in common: high on-base percentages.
Beane’s logic is simple: it doesn’t matter how you get on base. If you get on base, you’ll score runs. The strategy doesn’t sit too well with manager Art Howe (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and the two clash, disagreeing about necessary decisions such as who is in the lineup.
Although Oakland started the ’02 season slow, they eventually won 20 games in a row, setting an American League record for most consecutive wins in a single season.
The A’s overcome the odds and make the postseason, but get bumped in the first round for the second year in a row, this time by the Minnesota Twins. In the midst of the early playoff exit, the Red Sox recognize what Beane did in terms of building his team. Boston owner John Henry offers Beane a contract to be the highest paid General Manager in baseball history, which he declines.
Instead of going to the Red Sox, Beane opts to remain with the A’s, only for the Red Sox to win the World Series two years after he turned them down – winning it all by using the philosophy Beane instituted in Oakland.
There are a few unique baseball movies out there, but “Moneyball” just might be the most unique. Based on a true story, it isn’t a coming of age flick like “The Sandlot” or a one last chance tale like “The Rookie.”
“Moneyball” is a movie that presents and exposes the business side of the game of baseball – a side of the game that isn’t always transparent to the average fan.
Right from the start of the movie you are taken into the corporate side of baseball when Beane goes to Cleveland to try and make immediate off-season moves. It really shows you how fast things happen when a baseball team’s season ends. Most people might get the impression that once the season is over the next time the team is worrying about anything is Spring Training.
That notion is quickly proved wrong right at the start of the movie.
Beane’s assistant Brand is based off Paul DePodesta, a savvy baseball expert who studied the game in and out and served as a catalyst in terms of changing the team. He enforced and supported building the A’s team by way of sabermetrics, which is defined as a system of analyzing baseball players by empirical evidence and specific in-game activity.
Bill James, a baseball writer and statistician, was “the man behind the curtain” so-to-speak, as he devised this crazy concept of sabermetrics. In fact, James wrote the book from which the movie is adapted. His ideas were was embraced by the Oakland General Manager. Beane knew exactly what he was hoping to accomplish and it shows throughout the movie.
One of the best and most relatable scenes in the movie to me was the scene that portrayed Brand breaking some potentially unsettling news to Carlos Pena. Beane had told his assistant that he might have to tell players they are cut or traded, as it comes with the job; a classic case of a boss making his employee do some not-so-fun work.
Ultimately Brand had to inform Pena that he had been traded to the Detroit Tigers.
Right as that scene concluded, I immediately thought of my internship with the Hudson Valley Renegades, a Single-A team affiliated with the Tampa Bay Rays. I interned for them over the summer of 2010 and at times they would ask the interns to do some bizarre things.
One night the Renegades were playing the Jamestown Jammers, whose parent club is the Miami Marlins. One of the Jammers had been cut that day, but was still at the Stadium. He needed to be driven to the airport and they selected an intern (it wasn’t me) to give him a ride.
I saw a little bit of a parallel between the scene in the movie and the instance from my internship.
Something else I found interesting was the scene portraying the acquisition of reliever Ricardo Rincon. At the beginning of the movie when Beane is in Cleveland, he inquires about Rincon and expresses a sheer amount of interest in him. At the trade deadline the Indians are out of the playoff running. With the A’s still in contention and in need of a reliever, Beane gives the Tribe a call.
Cleveland refused to budge on a swap for Rincon citing interest from other teams, so Beane takes matters into his own hands. He orchestrates a ploy with some of the other General Managers and in the end lands the deal and acquires Rincon.
If I could take one still frame from the entire movie, it would be Brand’s reaction after he and Beane pulled off the trade. He looked like a little kid at Christmas, getting exactly what his heart desired.
What I also liked was how they threw in the little back story about Beane’s career as a player. He was drafted by the New York Mets out of high school, and instead of going to Stanford to play baseball on a full-ride scholarship he chose to sign with the Mets.
And it didn’t go well for Beane. At all.
His career was a flop and it kind of goes back to the idea of whether it’s smart to play in college or go right to the pros upon getting drafted. I’ve always had more respect for the ones that play in college. I feel you have a better chance at maturing as a player and as a person.
It certainly worked out for someone like Tino Martinez, who was drafted out of high school by the Red Sox, yet turned them down to play for the University of Tampa. He was drafted again by Seattle and eventually had a wonderful career.
At any rate, there are a few things I noticed while watching “Moneyball” that I was sort of able to nitpick at; things that didn’t make the movie any less enjoyable, but once I noticed them I picked them out.
For one, in the Ricardo Rincon trade scene, Brand is wearing an all-green Oakland A’s hat. The all-green hats, complete with black underneath the bill, weren’t introduced until 2007 when New Era released the polyester headwear to reduce sun glare. Up until then, grey was the color underneath the bill of the hat.
I only knew that because when the polyester caps were released (it should come as no shock) I purchased a Yankee hat.
In addition to the hat anachronism, the scene which portrays Beane at Fenway speaking to Henry caught my eye. Boston’s 2004 and 2007 championship banners are visible. The movie is taking place at the conclusion on the 2002 season, so the flags representing Boston’s titles shouldn’t be there.
At first I thought I had spotted another mistake, but as it turns out the director (Bennett Miller) got it right.
The scene in which the A’s were gunning for their 20th consecutive win, they are shown playing the Kansas City Royals at home. They show Mike Sweeney hit a towering drive to left field, homering to put the Royals within one run; KC eventually tying the game before the A’s picked up the 12-11 win on the power of a walk-off, solo home run off the bat of Hatteberg.
When Sweeney played, he wore a “C” on his jersey, denoting his status at team captain. In the movie Sweeney’s “C” was absent from the breast of his jersey, but it should have been. Upon research, he wasn’t named captain of the Royals until 2003.
I thought I had caught Miller on a mistake, but in the end he got me.
Overall I found “Moneyball” to be a riveting and informative movie. I wish I had seen it sooner than I had, but when it was in theaters last summer most of my friends went and saw it with their girlfriends. Naturally when I wanted to see it and asked my friends to go to the movies, I only heard the words,
“I already saw it with my girlfriend. It was really good, you should go see it.”
Yes, I should have gone to see it when it was in theaters. But I wasn’t going to the movies by myself.
Where’s the fun in that?
Last night was a brutal night to be a Yankee fan, as the Bronx Bombers let a middle-innings lead slip away. The Seattle Mariners eked a 4-3 win over the Yanks. With the win, the Mariners are now a .500 team.
The highlight of the game was perhaps Mark Teixeira’s first inning solo home run off rookie phenom Michael Pineda, his 14th round-tripper of the year. Seattle’s defense played a huge role, considering Franklin Gutierrez’s brilliant thievery in centerfield, robbing a scuffling Nick Swisher of a home run in the top of the fourth.
After the game I asked myself, “How would this game have played out if Swisher had hit that home run?”
Probably a lot different, because it was a one-run game.
Instead of focusing on that ugly loss last night, I figured I would lighten the mood with an interesting blog topic: Stadium Giveaways.
Whenever I purchase tickets to a Yankee game or have the chance to go to a game, the first thing I ask myself is, “Are they giving anything away at this game, and if so, what?”
There’s nothing like taking a free keepsake away from the game you attend, along with memories of a day at a ballgame. Some of those Stadium Giveaways can become extremely valuable, depending on what happens in the game.
I’m not exactly sure what the precise value is, but something tells me if you went to David Wells’s perfect game on May 17, 1998, and received the Beanie Baby giveaway, you have yourself a truly valuable item worth a good amount of money.
Every Stadium, not just Yankee Stadium, uses promotions as a means to bring fans out to the park and get butts in the seats. And in the spirit of Stadium Giveaways, I am going to share my favorite treasures, as well as share the action that specific game provided.
Get ready for some stories! Here goes…
Batting Glove Day, July 22, 1999
I will never forget this day, only because it was the first time I sat in the upper deck at Yankee Stadium. It was quite interesting, considering me and heights mix about as well as peanut butter and ketchup.
The Yankee batting glove was given to children 14 and younger and it was a nice prize to carry up to the last row of seats at the old Stadium.
The Yanks hosted the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and beat them by a count of 5-4.
Bernie Williams went deep for the Yanks that day and Andy Pettitte tossed six innings on his way to his sixth win of the year.
Andy Pettitte Bobble Head Day, May 24, 2001
To this day, I am bitter about this.
My eighth grade class took a field trip to Yankee Stadium toward the end of the year. We were treated to a classic Yankees-Red Sox game, in which the Yankees won 2-1.
Mike Mussina and Pedro Martinez dueled it out, each fanning 12 batters in the game. Bernie Williams supplied some Yankees offense with a home run and Paul O’Neill notched an RBI.
The giveaway story was not a happy one, however.
The Pettitte bobble head was given to fans 14 and younger. I was only 13, turning 14 the next month. Because I had hit my growth spurt and I was tall, the Yankee Stadium bobble head distributors did not believe I was actually 13; they thought I was older and thus I did not receive a bobble head.
That day each of my eighth grade classmates got a bobble head and I didn’t. Words cannot describe how much that hurt me; I felt so left out. I was looking forward to a bobble head and I did not get one.
At least I still have the memory of a Yankee win over the Red Sox and a day with my eighth grade class at the Stadium. When we got back from the trip we all took a picture together. I guess I can carry that around with me instead of a bobble head.
Bat Day, June 30, 2001
Bat Day has been a longstanding tradition at Yankee Stadium, going back decades. It was my friend Vito’s 14th birthday and we celebrated at Yankee Stadium.
The Yanks played the Devil Rays that day; Ted Lilly vs. Ryan Rupe. Down 4-0 in the sixth, the Bombers struck back with a three-run inning. They put up two runs in the eighth and went on to beat the Rays 5-4.
Williams crushed two homers (his 13th and 14th of the season) and Tino Martinez also went deep for his 13th long ball of ‘01.
I left the Stadium that day with a bat and a Yankee win. And looking back it was almost déjà vu from the batting glove game; the Yanks beat the Devil Rays by the same score and the same player (Williams) went yard.
Yankee Binder Day, August 7, 2003
Although it was only the beginning of August, the Yankees knew school was soon set to begin. And what better way to bring us back into the school spirit with a Yankee binder, featuring legends and present players?
The Bombers were hosting the Texas Rangers on that hot afternoon, and played them to a 7-5 win.
The ball was jumping off the bats that day, and a number of players had big-time home runs. For the Rangers, Rafael Palmeiro smacked his 28th homer of the year in the first inning, a three-run bomb which gave Texas a quick lead.
But the Yanks answered in the bottom half of the second with four runs, all coming from the same source. Enrique Wilson stepped up to the plate with the bases loaded and clubbed a grand slam, his second home run of the year, to give the Yankees a 4-3 lead.
Soon-to-be Yankee Alex Rodriguez also homered, his 30th of the season.
Starter Mike Mussina settled down and tossed 7 1/3 innings, allowing just four earned runs on eight hits. He walked none and struck out five en route to his 12th win of the year.
Not a bad way to end a day at the Stadium.
Old Timer’s Day: July 9, 2005 and July 7, 2007.
I was fortunate enough to be at Old Timer’s Day twice. If you are a Yankee fan, do yourself a favor and get out to an Old Timer’s Day at least once. You will not be disappointed.
Every Old Timer’s Day, the Yanks issue all fans a commemorative pin.
The first time I had the pleasure of attending Old Timer’s Day was July 9, 2005. The ceremonies were cut short because of rain, but the weather held up for the actual game.
The Yanks played the Cleveland Indians and lost 8-7, but nearly made miraculous comeback at the end.
Alex Rodriguez, Hideki Matsui, Gary Sheffield, and Ruben Sierra each homered for the Yankees, as the ball was once again exploding off the bats.
Darrell May started for New York and did not impress anyone, pitching 4 1/3 innings and giving up seven earned runs on eight hits. On the bright side he didn’t issue any walks and K’d three.
On July 7, 2007, it was a much better experience.
We arrived at the game early, and it was a beautiful day – a contrast to my previous Old Timer’s Day experience. Our seats were behind home plate and Jorge Posada’s wife Laura was sitting a few seats in front of us.
The ceremony was classic; Don Mattingly, Reggie Jackson, Paul O’Neill, Scott Brosius, Ken Griffey, Sr., and many, many more were on hand to play in the Old Timer’s game.
With the retired players divided, they split up into teams: the Bombers and the Clippers. The Bombers beat the Clippers, 4-0.
As for the modern-day Yankees, it was a slow game. They wound up losing 2-1 in 13 innings to the Angels.
What was so ironic about the whole day was that Roger Clemens started for the Yankees in their game vs. the Angels – and he was older than three players who participated in the Old Timer’s Game!
May 24, 2008, Yankee Baseball Card Day
It wound up being my third-to-last game at the old Stadium, and it was a good one. All fans received a pack of collectible Yankee baseball cards.
Let’s be honest, who didn’t love collecting baseball cards as a kid? It certainly brought me back to my youth in a good way.
The Yanks played the Seattle Mariners and (unlike last night) beat them 12-6.
Mike Mussina pitched rather well, capturing his seventh win of his eventual 20-win campaign. The Yanks did it with their bats too, receiving home runs from Jason Giambi and Bobby Abreu.
July 15, 2006, Collectible Stamp Day
This was one the best days I can remember from 2006. A day at the Stadium with my Uncle John and his two sons, my cousins Thomas and Gordon.
Each fan was issued an envelope with stamps of all-time great players: Mickey Mantle, Hank Greenberg, Mel Ott, and Roy Campanella.
Before the game the Yankees held a special ceremony behind home plate with relatives of each player represented on the stamps, including Mantle’s sons.
The Yankees played the White Sox that afternoon and crushed them, 14-3.
Bubba Crosby and Andy Phillips were the only two Yanks to go yard, but they played plenty of small ball. Derek Jeter had three RBIs and two doubles.
July 22, 2009, Yankee Stadium Puzzle Day
One of my fondest memories of the magical 2009 season was going out to Yankee Stadium on July 22, when they faced off with the Baltimore Orioles. Every fan in attendance was given a Yankee Stadium puzzle.
Jorge Posada homered, backing a solid outing from A.J. Burnett. The Yanks won 6-4.
I never put the puzzle together. It’s still in the box.
Hopefully this year I can get out to a Yankee game on a day they give away something neat. It’s always fun to collect and reflect on each game and the memories attached to each giveaway.
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 would expect this from maybe a Boston newspaper but the Daily News? I’m a little shocked they went this far. Normally the New York Daily News is known for being very “pro-Yankee,” at least in my view, but they printed this on their back page on Wednesday, the day Alex Rodriguez crushed his 600th career home run.
A New York newspaper, instead of looking past all of the steroid drama, took down one its own players. I thought we had gotten past all this nonsense, but apparently not.
Up until this point, I haven’t been particularly vocal about my stance on steroids and performance enhancing drugs in the sport of baseball. Since the Daily News fired this little salvo and reopened Pandora’s Box, I figured this would be the perfect opportunity for me to offer my opinion on the use of PEDs/steroids in baseball.
First of all, I in NO WAY condone the use of any kind of illegal drug or steroid. In my life I have never tried drugs and I don’t plan on ever using drugs. I took a health class in high school and fully understand how harmful drugs and steroids can be and how they can steer a life in the wrong direction.
If you call writing a drug, it’s what I’m addicted to.
As far as steroids are concerned, I think no player/athlete should ever use them. Just like any other drug, there are consequences that come with using them, and they project adverse effects on the body. From what I have learned about them, they increase muscle mass, strength, and stamina.
That sounds great but…
Steroids also shrink private parts, cause jaundice, baldness, tumors, and heart failure.
They are like an evil super-villain, who starts off as your friend and then gradually turns on you; that’s probably the best way to describe them. They seem like they are going to help you and all of the sudden they rip your body from the inside out. Overall, it’s not a good idea to use them and there’s a good reason they are banned from basically every sport in this country.
On Dec. 13, 2007, the Mitchell Report was released, naming 89 Major League Baseball players who used steroids and/or performance enhancing drugs at least once in their careers. To first clarify how the report was formed, George Mitchell, a former U.S. Senator, conducted a 21-month investigation into the use of steroids and human growth hormones in baseball.
Among the more known players named in the Mitchell Report were Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, Jason Giambi, and Barry Bonds.
All of these players have had outstanding careers in baseball. Clemens has won seven Cy Young Awards and Pettitte is a five-time World Champion. Giambi is a former Home Run Derby Champion and Bonds is the all-time Home Run King.
They all have done great things…and it’s all thanks to steroids, right?
I refuse to believe it.
Clemens, Pettitte, Giambi, and Bonds have all at some point in their career taken steroids–which is their own fault and their own poor decision-making. They were all exposed by Mitchell, but so were a large number of other players–players who have taken steroids and done practically nothing with their careers.
Consider former Yankee reliever Jason Grimsley. He was named in the Mitchell Report and was reported to have purchased HGH and diet pills from Kirk Radomski, a known illegal steroid distributor. According to the Mitchell Report, Grimsley used steroids from 2000-2005 and spent over $35,000 on drugs.
Now take a look at his career numbers while using steroids:
Grimsley was 42-58 in roughly 17 major league seasons. His ERA ended at 4.77 and he struck out 622 batters all-time.
Can you really compare that to Pettitte, or even Clemens for that matter?
Although Pettitte and Clemens were using steroids, their numbers were way above where Grimsley’s were. I truly feel that their numbers were better simply because they were better; they had more talent than Grimsley whether they used steroids or not.
Steroids probably help a pitcher more than a hitter in terms of strength and stamina, but going back to Rodriguez…
How much did the steroids help him? Is there a statistic that tells us how much better steroids made A-Rod? Did using them make him 50% stronger or 75% faster? Did steroids make him 25% more likely to hit a ball out of the park?
Did Rodriguez’s use of PEDs really enhance his performance?
As of this moment, there’s no way of knowing. In Rodriguez’s case, the only way to (maybe) determine if steroids really helped him is to look at his numbers when he was allegedly using them, which was 2001-2003–his three year stint with the Texas Rangers.
2001: 52 Home Runs, 135 RBIs, and a .318 batting average.
2002: 57 Home Runs, 142 RBIs, and a .300 batting average.
2003: 47 Home Runs, 118 RBIs, and a .298 batting average. (Won the MVP)
Obviously he had stellar numbers during his steroid-using years, but he had stellar numbers without steroids as well. Consider A-Rod’s numbers post-steroids.
2004: 36 Home Runs, 106 RBIs, and a .286 batting average. This year, although he was off the juice, was his first year playing in New York. I don’t credit his discontinuation of steroids for his dip in stats. I credit getting acclimated in the big city for his decline in power numbers–they went back up the following year.
2005: 48 Home Runs, 130 RBIs, and a .321 batting average. (Won the MVP)
2006: 35 Home Runs, 121 RBIs, and a .280 batting average.
2007: 54 Home Runs, 156 RBIs, and a .314 batting average (Won MVP)
2008: 35 Home Runs, 135 RBIs, and a .302 batting average.
2009: 30 Home Runs, 100 RBIs, and a .286 batting average.
Even Rodriguez’s numbers after his stoppage of using steroids have been relatively consistent. Not counting 2010, he still averaged nearly 40 homers and almost 125 RBIs per year post-steroid usage. In laymen’s terms, he was still an amazing hitter after he stopped using drugs.
In fact, he was a standout hitter before he began using steroids, too.
At 18 years old, Rodriguez made his MLB debut with the Seattle Mariners. He played 65 games in his first two seasons from 1994-95. He only hit five homers in those 65 games and knocked in a total of 21 runs. In his first full season (1996) at 20 years of age Rodriguez smacked 36 homers, drove in 123 runs, and batted a mind-blowing .358.
Bottom line: he was good before taking steroids, he was good while he took steroids, and good after he stopped taking steroids.
Now consider F.P. Santangelo, an outfielder who played for four MLB teams from 1995-2001. Santangelo was named in the Mitchell Report and he, like Grimsley, received HGH from Radomski. His career numbers:
21 Home Runs, 162 RBIs, and a .245 career batting average.
There is just no comparison. Rodriguez and Santangelo both used steroids and who had the better career? Of course the answer is A-Rod, but Santangelo used steroids, right? So he should have crushed at least 400 home runs in his six-year career, right? Steroids make every player a home run hitter, right?
Wrong. I just can’t believe it.
Along with differences in statistics, another good reason I feel steroids can’t help a hitter is hand-eye coordination. If you take the skinniest, wimpiest, most uncoordinated person on the planet and put him on the most high-powered super steroids, will he be able to hit a baseball 450 feet?
I really doubt it.
There are so many factors that go into being a great baseball player. In the baseball world, they are called “tools.” The tools are:
1) Hitting for average,
2) Hitting for power
3) Base-running skill/speed
4) Throwing ability
5) Fielding ability
Now, can steroids completely make up a five-tool player? If they can, someone please explain to me how exactly it’s possible. Coordination and mental preparation are just as important as the physical aspect of the game of baseball.
I understand that steroids can increase physical attributes of the body, but I don’t feel they can artificially construct a five-tool player. Many players like Santangelo, who were named in the Mitchell Report, possessed maybe two or three of these tools. Rodriguez, who admitted steroid use in February of 2009, has all the tools.
Players can take all the steroids they want, but it can’t give them all the tools.
There just isn’t any way to tell how much better steroids make a player. Until a statistic is released that gives a number or percentage that reveals how much better steroids make a player, I just can’t believe they do anything to boost a baseball player in terms of their regular skills.
You can compare any ballplayer who has taken steroids, and their numbers are inconsistent. Whether you compare Clemens to Grimsley or Rodriguez to Santangelo, no one (with proven fact) can say steroids make a baseball player better.
I understand that they increase physical parts of an athlete’s body, meaning that their stamina and strength are better off. But ‘roids cannot help with hand-eye coordination or any other mental aspect of the game.
Nothing has been proven in terms of consistent baseball numbers and steroids, but what has been proven is that they are harmful–to the career, the public image, and the body. They taint records, at least in everyone’s eyes, because steroid users are regarded as cheaters.
Do I feel A-Rod is a cheater? Well if he is, then there’s hundreds and hundreds of other cheaters out there with him. They do not suffer the same fate as Rodriguez because most of them are now forgotten. Rodriguez only suffers because he is still in the spotlight and in the middle of everything that is Major League Baseball.
However what has been proven is that medically, steroids can and will harm the body. All the athletes, professionally and going as far down as the high school level, will one day regret using drugs as a means to becoming a better athlete.
Sure, it may take awhile; they may regret it when they are in a wheelchair or lying in their casket, but they will one day look back and say, “I should have thought better of it.”
I’m sure Grimsley and Santangelo–who never did make it huge–are regretting it right now.
When it comes to steroids, the best thing to do is stay away. If you take them your image will be tainted, your body will betray you, and you might not even become a better athlete anyway.
Zack Greinke of the Kansas City Royals won the American League Cy Young Award today, as voted by the Baseball Writer’s Association. He finished with 25 first-place votes.
Good for you, Zack. You had a great year on a terrible team.
I have to hand it to Greinke, though. He has had some abysmal years and with the Royals almost guaranteed to finish in the basement of the American League Central Division every year, it’s good to see that they can at least have something to cheer for and be proud of.
I’d also like to point out that Greinke overcame a social anxiety disorder which kept him away from baseball for two months in 2006. Having been routed back to the minor leagues, he worked his way back to the majors after returning from his ailment.
And I have to say, I know what it feels like; as a person myself who has suffered from anxiety disorder, I know what Greinke has been through. It is not fun; it really hurts when you are diagnosed with it, I know I was. I definitely sympathize with him on overcoming his disorder. You get the jitters, your nerves are going out of whack, and you cannot concentrate.
Anxiety disorders are horrible, I’m just glad Greinke overcame his (and if you’re wondering, I overcame mine, as well; I attribute it to my parents’ divorce, but still, it was uncomfortable)
In 2007 Greinke was basically hurting in the bullpen. He didn’t have a great year, only posting a 7-7 record with a 3.69 ERA in 52 appearances.
Coming back to the rotation in 2008, Greinke went 13-10 with a 3.47 ERA. Not bad, at least he posted a winning record.
I actually saw him pitch in ’08 at old Yankee Stadium; it was June 8, the day after Johnny Damon basically single-handedly beat the Royals. It was also one of the last times I visited the old ballpark in the Bronx and it was Joba Chamberlain’s second career start.
Greinke was not impressive at all that day, tossing only five innings and giving up four earned runs on six hits. He walked four and struck out six.
I vividly remember that scorching, Sunday afternoon; Bobby Abreu murdered a long homer off Greinke in the first inning, a shot that landed in the upper deck in right field (did I mention I still love Abreu?)
Jason Giambi also took Greinke deep that day, blasting a home run in the sixth. The Yankees obviously won the game 6-3, and it was Greinke’s fourth loss in ’08.
So the one time I did see Greinke…yeah, the Yankees smacked him up.
But this year he was excellent. Greinke posted a record of 16-8 and led the American League in ERA with 2.16. And if he had gotten some help, he could have reached 20 wins, no doubt about it. If he was on a team like the Yankees or Red Sox or Angels and had received a little more run support–20 wins, hands-down.
He was 6-1 with a 1.75 ERA in his last 11 starts of ’09 and he threw one-hitters in back-to-back outings in August. He only allowed five stolen bases all year.
Now that is outstanding. It’s plain to see Greinke was in control this past year.
The Zack-man was awesome this year. The real question now is, can he do it again in 2010? We’ll have to wait and see, but I’m not sure I’m convinced he’ll be as good next year as he was this year; I mean I like Greinke, but was he just a flash in the pan?
There is no denying he earned the award this year; clearly the best man won. But I’m not so sure Greinke will have the same type of year next year. His numbers don’t lie; he has had some awful, forgettable seasons in past years.
This year could have just been an isolated incident.
The runners-up were Felix Hernandez (2nd) Justin Verlander (3rd) and CC Sabathia (4th) and they have all posted stellar numbers year after year. There has been a pattern with the other guys–they have put up the same types of numbers for a few years now.
With Greinke, it was one year. The rest of his career has been horrid. But we’ll see. We won’t know until 2010. But what we do know is that he had an exceptional, Cy Young-worthy 2009 and he deserved to win it.
Greinke is truly a feel-good story. And I am happy for him.
Greetings Yankee fans! And welcome to the 13th edition of Yankee Yapping.
Well….start spreading the news. We’re leaving today….for October!
If October Gonzalez still blogs here on MLB.com, he needs to get ready to do some…Yankee Yapping.
Away we go!!
My thoughts on…
The AL East Title
As everyone in the world already knows, yesterday the Bronx Bombers clinched the American League East title with a victory over the Red Sox, completing a weekend sweep of their arch-rivals. It marked the first time since 2006 the Yanks have won the AL East and the first time since 2005 they won the title in front of the Red Sox.
In ’05 the Yankees won the crown on the second-to-last day of the season at Fenway Park.
The Yankees also won their 100th game of the season, and that marked the first time since 2004 the Yanks accomplished that feat. And oh, by the way, they have home-field advantage throughout the post-season.
The Yanks pretty much made out like bandits Sunday afternoon.
I have to admit I almost broke down and cried. I was so overjoyed when they won yesterday. Considering the Yanks missed the playoffs last year and remembering how sad I was on the last day of the 2008 regular season, yesterday was pretty special.
I liked the analogy Derek Jeter used when speaking of the Yankees early winter last year. “It’s almost like you’re a kid and your parents don’t let you go outside and play,” Jeter analogized.
“You’re watching everybody outside the window because you’re in trouble. That’s what it felt like. Now you’re off punishment and you can go back outside.”
The last day of the regular season is always melancholy; it means the summer is truly over. As a diehard baseball fan, I wish the season could last forever.
It doesn’t, but at least with your team in the playoffs, you are guaranteed a shot at the World Title and a chance to see your team try and give you a memory that can last a lifetime.
When your team wins it all, you will remember it forever.
But the AL East is only one step toward what the Yankees and we the fans are looking forward to. It was nice to celebrate yesterday, but we are going back to work this week vs. the Royals and this weekend against the Rays.
I’m sure the Yankees were proud of themselves, which they should be, but I’ll bet if you ask Jeter or Mariano Rivera, or any of the other players, they’ll say that there’s a lot more work to be done.
Which is certainly true. The Yankees have accomplished something good. And now they must continue to move forward and hopefully reach “baseball nirvana.”
Weekend Sweep of Boston
After the Yankees went 0-8 against Boston at the beginning of the season, I never would of thought they’d rebound as nicely as they have.
The Yankees have won nine out of their last 10 games against the Red Sox and the way they played them this past weekend gave me even more confidence in the Yankees’ ability to beat Boston if they happen to meet in the ALCS this year.
The last time the two teams squared off in the 2004 ALCS….well, we need not relive that. But at least the Bombers have demonstrated the ability to match the Red Sox punch-for-punch, which is what they need this late in the season.
In this weekend’s three-game sweep, the Yanks outscored Boston 16-7. Back in August when the Yankees swept the Red Sox at home, they outscored them 25-8. So it’s apparent that the Yankees know how to drive runners in against the Red Sox, a good ability to have against a potential playoff opponent.
On Friday I was thrilled to see Joba Chamberlain pitching well and the Yanks won, 9-5. He tossed six innings and gave up three runs on five hits. He walked one and struck out five. He got the win and ironically his last win before Friday came against the Red Sox on Aug. 6.
You see guys: when you let Chamberlain pitch without worrying about his innings limit, he can actually perform well!
However, I did feel sympathy for Jon Lester, getting drilled with a liner off the knee on a ball crushed by Melky Cabrera. I don’t like the Red Sox (obviously) but I have a lot of respect for Lester. He is such a great success story, coming back from cancer and throwing a no-hitter. So yes, I felt bad for him.
Lester had to leave the game in the third inning, but he wasn’t pitching effectively, anyway. He had given up a homer to Alex Rodriguez and was losing before he got hit, so I don’t think he would’ve been in the game much longer, as it was.
Lester was charged with five earned runs and registered the loss.
Saturday looked like a classic pitcher’s duel; Daisuke Matsuzaka for the Red Sox and CC Sabathia for the Yankees.
The “Dice-Man” hasn’t really had much success against the Yankees (going into Saturday he was 3-2 with a 6.35 ERA lifetime vs. New York) but he still put up a good game. Well, I don’t know if I should say “good;” the Yankees left a lot of men on base and just didn’t capitalize. They could have had some big innings, but just didn’t score.
And Sabathia was Sabathia, of course. He fanned eight BoSox over the seven innings he pitched and didn’t give up any runs. In fact, he was tossing a no-hitter up until Mike Lowell broke it up in the fifth with a line drive to centerfield.
Sabathia no-hit the Red Sox through 5 2/3 on Aug. 8 until Jacoby Ellsbury broke it up. I find that so fascinating; Sabathia carried a no-hitter into the middle-to-late innings twice against the Red Sox this year. I don’t know of any other pitcher in recent history who’s done that.
The Red Sox looked lost; I mean, they only had three runners in scoring position all day and they went 0-for-3. Boston also only had two hits all day. That’s containment, if you ask me.
Robinson Cano broke the scoreless tie in the sixth with his 24th homer of the year. It’s funny; I never really thought Cano would generate that type of power. He has made me look at him totally different. When he comes up to bat, I’m thinking, “We may have a shot at a homer here.” What an awesome year he’s had.
Saturday’s final: Yankees 3, Boston 0. Good enough for me.
And Sunday was the finale. Andy Pettitte was the man the Yanks sent to the hill to claim their AL East title and he completed their mission. The veteran lefty went six innings and gave up two runs for a quality start en route to the Yanks’ 4-2 win over Boston.
The champagne celebration followed the final out.
Cabrera and Mark Teixeira each homered while Hideki Matsui put the Yankees ahead in the sixth with a two-run single.
Here’s something I should point out: Derek Jeter led off the game with a single. That marked the 51st time this year the captain has led off the game with a base hit. I think the strategy of Jeter as the leadoff hitter has paid off in a big way and it could be something that is showcased in the playoffs.
Overall, it was a great weekend to be a Yankee and a Yankee fan. And that’s probably the biggest understatement of this century.
Chances in the Post-Season
The Yankees have made it to the post-season for the first time since 2007. But recent playoff memories for Yankees fans are…well….not fond ones.
The Bombers have not won a World Series since 2000. They haven’t played in the World Series since 2003. And they haven’t made it past the American League Division Series since 2004.
But here are a few reasons I think the Yankees’ chances are better than ever in 2009.
The one thing the Yankees accomplished in the off-season was the acquisition of starting pitching. I mean, let’s face it–these last few playoff appearances, the Yanks just didn’t have any effective pitching.
Not knocking Mike Mussina–he did some great things in the post-season. I can’t thank him enough for getting out of that bases loaded, one out jam in game seven of the 2003 ALCS (fans might remember it as the “Aaron Boone Game”)
Mussina came into the game in an extremely pressurized situation–really the weight of the game was on his shoulders. He thankfully got Johnny Damon to bounce into a double play to avoid any further trouble.
I just feel bad Mussina never got a ring. He always called himself “Mr. Almost.” Meaning that he almost got a World Series ring, almost won a Cy Young, and almost had a perfect game (Sept. 2, 2001 at the Red Sox. Carl Everett broke it up with two outs in the ninth with a bloop single to left field)
For as good as “Moose” was, he was never an overwhelming power-pitcher; he was more of a smart, mental pitcher. His strength relied primarily on his knuckle-curve ball and his fast ball was not a live as some of the Yankees’ starters today.
Case in point: CC Sabathia, who is 19-7 this season with a 3.21 ERA. Now a lot of people might be quick to judge Sabathia’s playoff numbers, which aren’t pretty–he’s 2-3 with a 7.92 ERA lifetime in the playoffs for the Cleveland Indians and the Milwaukee Brewers (that includes two losses to Boston in the 2007 ALCS)
But I’m really willing to look past that right now.
Last year Sabathia was pitching a lot on short rest, something that will probably not be done this year. He has been dominant vs. Boston this year, so I’m not concerned with who he faces. It’s not only Boston; save for just getting himself acclimated to New York and struggling a little bit in the beginning of the season, he’s been dominant against every team he has faced.
I have a feeling the ace will be performing and dealing, just like he’s been all year. Sabathia has given the Yankees quality and quantity all season, so I’m not really expecting that to change just because it’s playoff time.
I would also take a guy like A.J. Burnett over a pitcher like Randy Johnson.
Now granted Burnett has not had the easiest season, posting a record of 12-9 with a 4.19 ERA, he has still been a force in the rotation. I would rather have a pitcher like Burnett who is in his prime than the older Johnson who was past his prime when he pitched for the Yankees.
When Burnett is on, he can be one of the best pitchers there is. A lot of people have compared him to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, meaning he is either really good or really bad when he pitches. I cannot say it enough; we need the “Mr. A.J. Burnett-Hyde” to show up in the playoffs.
He’s had some rough starts versus Boston, but also matched Josh Beckett pitch-for-pitch on Aug. 7. Not to mention, he went undefeated in July, going 4-0 with the Yanks winning all five games he started. And his last start–when he beat the Angels—gave me some peace of mind.
There’s also been talk as to which game Burnett will start: game two or three of the ALDS. If he starts game two, he’d be pitching at home where his ERA is 3.65 (lower than the 4.73 ERA he has posted on the road)
Ideally it would make sense to start a lefty, a righty, and then a lefty again, which would mean Burnett starts game two. Manager Joe Girardi has not yet revealed what his post-season rotation will be.
Johnson posted a record of 0-1 with a 7.04 ERA in two playoff starts with the Yankees. I think Burnett can do a little better than that.
And lastly there’s Andy Pettitte, who has been a rock for the Yankees in October. In the LDS, he own a career record of 5-3 with a 3.92 ERA (which includes his 2005 appearance with the Houston Astros)
I remember he was really the only starter who kept the Yankees in the 2007 ALDS vs. the Indians. He started game two in Cleveland and was just incredible. He tossed 6 1/3 innings, giving up no runs on seven hits. He walked two and struck out five.
I expect the usual out of Pettitte, who claimed his 14th victory of the year in the Yankees’ AL East-clinching win on Sunday.
The pitching is just there, which it hasn’t been these past few years.
The Yankee bullpen has been so valuable to the team’s success. In the AL East-post game celebration, many people mentioned the bullpen in terms of the Yankees’ ability to win games.
Consider Alfredo Aceves, a middle reliever with 10 wins. In games where the Yankees looked like they were out of it, Aceves would come in and just get hitters out.
No, his fastball isn’t terribly overwhelming, but he’s demonstrated the ability to fool a lot of hitters with his breaking ball and he has found ways to make big outs.
On July 5 vs. Toronto, Aceves came on in relief of Joba Chamberlain, and tossed four innings of one-hit ball. He struck out five batters and didn’t allow a walk. That was when I thought to myself, “This guy might take us a long way.”
He certainly has.
Then there’s Phil Hughes, who is just virtually un-hittable.
He has cemented his spot as the Yankees’ eighth inning setup man and like I said in Edition 10, he has carved a niche for himself in the ‘pen. He started seven games this year with things not going so well for him, but he was sent to the bullpen and everything went right.
Everything from Hughes’s velocity to his win-loss record improved when he made the transition from the rotation to the bullpen.
In a close game, I fear for the opposing teams. Take Saturday, for instance. The Yankees were up by one run in the top of the eighth. Hughes came in and just shut down the Red Sox, allowing no runs and fanning two for his 18th hold of the year.
Hughes has also only allowed 65 hits in the 84 1/3 innings he has pitched this season. Obviously that is way less than a hit per inning, so the Yankees can feel at ease knowing they have Hughes out there. He keeps the opposition off base.
Oh yeah, and the Yankees have Mariano Rivera.
In the ALDS alone, Rivera is 2-0 with 15 saves and 35 strikeouts in 47 2/3 innings pitched. If that doesn’t say lights out, I’m not really sure what does.
This year, Rivera has 44 saves (at press time) and he’s only blown two.
The confidence in the bullpen is existent and if the Yankees are in a close-game situation, they will be in good shape with their bullpen in the state it is in now.
3) Addition by Subtraction
The Yankees got rid of some players and added other players prior to this year and to this point, it’s looking like they made the right moves.
I think what some people sometimes overlook is Jason Giambi’s two home runs in game seven of the 2003 ALCS (once again, “the Aaron Boone Game”) but other than that, he wasn’t a force in the playoffs the way Tino Martinez was.
Martinez had a rough time in the 1996 playoffs, but he basically exorcised his demons in 1998, putting up great numbers and even hitting a grand slam home run in game one of the World Series. Giambi never did that.
He was good in 2003 but was rendered basically useless when the Red Sox came back from 3-0 to beat the Yankees in 2004. I think the subtraction of Giambi was good move.
And along with the subtraction of Giambi came the addition to Mark Teixeira, who has fit in so well in 2009. Not only is he a gold glove caliber first baseman (something Giambi never was) but Teixeira is posting mind-boggling numbers and is an MVP candidate.
He is doing so many things to help the Yankees win this year and his performance could be one of the deciding factors in the playoffs.
It took a little while for Teixeira to settle in, but when Alex Rodriguez came back, he was all systems go. Since Rodriguez’s return on May 8, Teixeira is batting .311 with 32 home runs and owns a .596 slugging percentage.
They protect each other in the lineup, another positive factor that works in the Yankees’ favor and something they never really had these past few years.
The Yankees also possess speed in a guy like Brett Gardner, something they never really had in playoffs past. In a close game situation when the Yankees need a stolen base, they basically have the Flash on the bench, ready to run for them.
They have never had speed like Gardner on the bench (not to mention Gardner is pretty good on defense and not a shabby hitter, either) and once again, it’s something that could decide a playoff game.
If you add players like Teixeira and Gardner (while subtracting them from Giambi and even other useless players, like Carl Pavano and Bubba Crosby…and Gary Sheffield…and…well, this list could go on and on) to the other hitters who have just had great seasons, like Derek Jeter, Robinson Cano, Hideki Matsui, and Nick Swisher, the Yankee lineup in going to be awfully tough to pitch to in the playoffs.
The Yanks made themselves so much better by adding the right pieces to the puzzle while dumping the liabilities.
Well, on behalf of the fans, I’d like to say Congratulations to the 2009 New York Yankees. The AL East Title is yours, but we have more work to do.
I will be back next week with the final regular season edition of Yankee Yapping. I’ll hand out my end-of-season awards and offer more post-season analysis.
Until then, Go Yankees!!!
Hello all! And Welcome to the second edition of Yankee Yapping. I hope you all enjoyed my last rant about the Hall of Fame game, but now it’s time to do some Bronx Bomber blabbering. Away we go!
My thoughts on…
This Past Weekend
It was a bad weekend to be a Yankee fan, that’s for sure. It was disgraceful. Coming off that sweep in Minnesota, I had a good feeling about our chances in Anaheim. The Yankees were certainly carrying momentum, and it showed in the first few innings of Friday night’s game.
When the Yanks took that early 4-1 lead, I felt like they were going to win. But of course, Joba Chamberlain had to toss too many pitches and get himself taken out, not pitching past the fifth inning. Then the bullpen just couldn’t get the job done.
Saturday and Sunday were just as bad. Saturday was another game like Friday–getting a lead and squirreling it away. And Sunday we just kept trying to come back from deficit after deficit and couldn’t do it.
After this weekend, I truly know how it feels as a baseball fan to be burned by a former friend. It seemed every time Bobby Abreu was stepping into the box against us he was either hitting an RBI single or double. We just couldn’t get our former teammate out.
Abreu went 6-for-14 this weekend with six RBIs and three runs scored. I couldn’t stand it. Every time he got a hit I kept saying to myself, “we should have just re-signed him. He could be doing this for us rather than against us.”
Even the guys who aren’t hitting this season killed us. Robb Quinlan was batting .219 with no home runs and four RBIs, and yet he managed to start hitting in the series against the Yankees.
The Angels just seem to have the Yanks’ number. They eliminated us in the first round of the playoffs in 2002 and in 2005, and no matter what we do we just can’t seem to take them out.
What’s done this weekend is done. But I hope the Yanks can figure out a way to beat the Halos before October, because God help us if we’re facing the Angels in the first round. They have not been very kind to us in the past.
All Star Break
Despite the Yanks’ recent struggles against the Angels, they have played some incredible baseball to this point. They find themselves at 51-37 this year, 14 games above .500 at the half way point.
They are three games behind the Red Sox for first place in the American League Eastern Division, and the leaders by two-and-a-half games in front of Texas for the AL Wild Card.
Last year they were 50-45, only five games above .500 and six games out in the division race. As compared to last year, they are in a much better place.
If the season ended today, we would be in the playoffs, and it has to stay that way. Historically, the Yankees have great numbers after the All Star break, and usually come out of the gate swinging, so-to-speak.
CC Sabathia and Robinson Cano are two Yankees I can think of that are “second half players,” usually putting up their best work after the All Star break. I’m expecting both of these guys to continue that this year.
It’s safe to say the Yankees are doing a lot better than last year around this time, still in the hunt for a division crown and the leaders in the Wild Card. They have to make the playoffs this year, because Joe Girardi might be done as manager if they don’t.
Home Run Derby
Since it first began in 1985, the Home Run Derby has provided an enjoyable night for every baseball fan, and I am no exception.
In recent years I have kept score of who hits how many home runs in each round. It’s a little nerdy, but I am baseball fanatic, so I guess it’s normal.
The only thing I usually don’t like about the derby is the lack of pinstripes. There have only been two Yankees that have won the Home Run Derby, and ironically enough they have both been first basemen.
Tino Martinez (my favorite player during the Yankee Dynasty years) blew everyone out in 1997 at Jacobs….errm…Progressive Field in Cleveland. He put on such a great display of power and beat out the likes of Ken Griffey, Jr., Jim Thome, Mark McGwire, and Chipper Jones.
Martinez even said he was more nervous about competing in the Home Run Derby than the actual All Star Game because he didn’t feel he was really a home run hitter. He didn’t want to compete in the derby and not hit a home run, but wound up winning the contest.
Jason Giambi became the second Yankee to win the Derby in 2002 at Miller Park in Milwaukee. I remember watching it, and just being happy another Yankee won the contest. I never really liked Giambi as a player, but I’ll give him his due.
Giambi beat out his future teammate Alex Rodriguez, the current home run king* Barry Bonds, and Sammy Sosa–all of whom were amazing home run hitters at the time. And he did it wearing pinstripes.
This year Brandon Inge (Detroit Tigers), Joe Mauer (Minnesota Twins), Ryan Howard (Philadelphia Phillies), Nelson Cruz (Texas Rangers), Adrian Gonzalez (San Diego Padres), Carlos Pena (Tampa Bay Rays), Prince Fielder (Milwaukee Brewers), and Albert Pujols (St. Louis Cardinals) will all be taking their hacks for the Home Run Derby crown.
If you want my prediction, Pujols wins this easily.
He is leading the majors this year with 32 homers and 87 RBIs, and some people are going as far as saying he could win the Triple Crown. He is also playing in his home park in St. Louis, thus giving him a distinct advantage over the other participants.
Earlier this season, Pujols smashed a home run that went so far, it knocked out the “I” on the electrical McDonald’s “Big Mac” sign at Busch Stadium. He can hit and hit comfortably at his home park.
In my view, Pujols wins it by a landslide.
All Star Game
The mid-summer classic is always a fun night. The fans get to see the best-of-the-best playing on the same field at the same time.
Unfortunately I wasn’t able to attend the game last year at Yankee Stadium, but at least the American League won it.
The AL always seems to hold down the National League in this game. The last time the NL won the All Star game was 1996 (If you don’t count the 7-7 tie in 2002).
These last few years have showed the AL’s dominance over the NL, and I expect the same this year.
My prediction is the AL over the NL, 5-3.
The only thing that would make this great would be to see Derek Jeter or Mark Teixeira or Mariano Rivera win the All Star Game’s Most Valuable Player Award. The last Yankee to win it was Jeter in 2000, and it’d be nice to see a Bomber take it home to New York again.
I’d also love to see Rivera close out the contest and get the save. He has saved three All Star Games in his career (1997, 2005 and 2006) and is tied with Dennis Eckersley for most All Star Game saves.
There would be nothing more special than to see the greatest closer in baseball take first place for most All Star Game saves the same year he recorded his 500th career save.
Whichever way it goes, I have a feeling the AL will have home-field advantage in the World Series this year because of an All Star Game win.
Roy Halladay to the Yankees? Why?
As most baseball fans know, rumors have been swirling about Roy Halladay. Blue Jays’ General Manager J.P. Ricciardi put Halladay out there saying that he would be accepting offers for the ace.
ESPN’s Buster Olney reported that the Yankees, Red Sox, and Phillies are the only three teams that could possibly wind up with Halladay if he is dealt.
Olney said the Yanks and Sox have the prospects to trade for Halladay, but not the interest and the Phillies have the interest, but not the prospects.
The Yanks should generate some interest, seeing as how two of their starters could not make it out of the fifth inning this past weekend.
Joba Chamberlain is too unpredictable. He can give you seven innings with eight strikeouts, a couple walks, and maybe two runs.
Or he can give you four-and-a-third innings with no strikeouts, four walks, and five runs. He can either put us in a hole or dominate the opposition.
As good as Pettitte has been this year (8-4 is not a bad record) he often struggles at home, and in that start against the Angels this weekend, he looked bad.
Then there’s Chien-Ming Wang, who was once an ace but now an injury-ridden nobody. Alfredo Aceves took his spot in the rotation, but Girardi doesn’t want Aceves to be in the rotation. He said they will need to make a decision on what to do about that fifth spot.
In my view, the Yankees need to make a trade here. They are contenders and struggling a little bit with some pitching. Although certainly not as bad as the makeshift rotation last year, they could use one more solid pitcher.
If I were Brian Cashman, I would think about packaging some minor leaguers and maybe some back-end bullpen pitchers to Toronto for Halladay.
There are a few guys that I’d be willing to part with, namely Sergio Mitre, Kei Igawa, Edwar Ramirez, David Robertson, and Brian Bruney. If you gave up some of those guys, the Yanks would be a lot safer, and here’s how:
If they give up Mitre, it’s fine. They’re not losing anyone important to the Major League team. Igawa is the same way, and so is Ramirez. Robertson has been useless, a la walking two batters with the bases loaded in Minnesota and pitching even worse against the Angels.
Bruney could go and we could ‘pen Chamberlain again. If he is going to be as unpredictable as he is, he should go back to where he was lights out: the bullpen. We could then use Chamberlain as the eighth inning set-up man and put either Phil Hughes or Aceves into the fifth spot.
So let’s say for hypothetical the starter goes six innings. The Yanks can put Hughes/Aceves in for the seventh, Chamberlain in for the eighth, and Rivera for the ninth.
If they received Halladay in a trade, they wouldn’t have to worry about re-signing him until the end of the 2010 season when his contract expires. I think that was the reason the Yanks waited on getting Sabathia and Teixeira.
Both Sabathia and Teixeira were traded mid-season last year, and both players’ contracts were up at the end of the year.
If the Yankees had traded for both guys, they could’ve lost them to free agency after giving up their best prospects to get them. When Sabathia and Teixeira went to the Yankees, both the Brewers and Angels lost.
Milwaukee and Los Angeles lost Sabathia and Teixeira, respectively, and the players they gave up for Sabathia and Teixeira.
The Yankees wouldn’t have to worry about losing Halladay at the end of the season because he’d be locked up for at least another year before having to worry about re-signing him.
Even if you don’t have an extraordinary fifth starter, you have four guys that can carry you through a playoff series with Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Pettitte, and if we were to get him, Halladay.
I hope they do make a decision and opt to negotiate for Halladay. But they have to make up their mind soon–the trade deadline is at the end of the month.
Well that’s all for this week’s edition of Yankee Yapping. I’ll be back next week with more analysis. Enjoy the Home Run Derby and All Star Game, everyone!