They say retaining is tougher than obtaining.
Last year, the New York Yankees obtained their 27th World Series Championship. Here we are, almost a year after they won number 27, and the Bronx Bombers are looking to repeat as World Champs.
And much like last year, the Yanks will begin their quest to the title against the Minnesota Twins in the American League Division Series. Tomorrow night 21-game winner CC Sabathia will take the hill, opposed by 14-game winner and the 2010 American League Comeback Player of the Year, Francisco Liriano.
Game One could very well be a legitimate pitcher’s duel.
The same could be said about Game Two, which will feature postseason ace Andy Pettitte facing former Yankee and 17-game winner Carl Pavano. Game Three will take the series back to Yankee Stadium where Phil Hughes (18-8, 4.19 ERA) will square off against Brian Duensing (10-3, 2.62 ERA).
It seems to me that there are many things working in the Yankees’ favor in this series, but just as many things working against them. Everything is up in the October air right now, and it is the Yanks’ series to win…or lose.
In the Yankees’ Favor
· History vs. Twins
This one almost goes without saying.
The Yankees have eliminated Minnesota three times in the first round of the playoffs (2003, ’04, and ’09). In ’03 and ’04 the Yankees won three games to one. Last year it was a clean sweep, as the Yankees took care of the Twins in three.
· The Yankees vs. Liriano
Brett Gardner, Marcus Thames, Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, and Nick Swisher all have stellar career numbers against the Twins’ Game One starter. Combined, they own a .435 batting average against Liriano, coupled with four home runs and seven RBIs.
Winning the first game of the series is always important and can genuinely set the tone of a playoff series. While it looks to be a pitcher’s duel, the good numbers are probably in the back of Yankee manager Joe Girardi’s head–something he will most likely consider when putting together the lineup card.
· The Twins Aren’t Clutch?
Since the Twins took Game One of the 2004 ALDS from the Yankees, they have lost nine consecutive postseason games. In those nine games, they have been outscored 52-28 by the opposition.
When the calendar turns to October, the Twins’ offense seems to be switched off.
· No Morneau
Before Justin Morneau was injured with a concussion on July 7, he was in the discussion for the A.L. Most Valuable Player Award. In the 81 games he played this season, he hit .345 with 18 homer runs and 56 RBIs. In fact, he led the Twins with Wins Above Replacement (WAR) at 5.6.
Morneau has been ruled out for the entire postseason. The absence of a rather dangerous hitter in the Twins’ lineup might somewhat ease the pressure on the New York pitchers.
· Ron Gardenhire’s Attitude
In the press conference after team workouts today, the Twins’ skipper referred to this series as a classic “David vs. Goliath” match. Ron Gardenhire sees his team as David, trying to take out the almighty Goliath-like Bronx Bombers.
He made a great analogy.
Under Gardenhire, the Twins are 18-54 in 72 games against the Yankees, and they only average 3.6 runs per game against the Bombers. The Twins are also 2-9 vs. the Yanks in October, contributing to the skipper’s underdog attitude.
· Alex Rodriguez Carryover?
Up until last year, the Yankees’ slugging third baseman was revered as a goat in the postseason. From his infamous “slap of the ball” out of Bronson Arroyo’s glove in 2004 to his deer-in-the-headlights strikeout with the bases loaded against Joel Zumaya in 2006, Alex Rodriguez struggled when it came to the playoffs.
But all that changed last October.
Rodriguez erased his troubled postseason past with a .378 batting average in last year’s playoffs, along with hitting six homers and knocking in 18 runs. In last year’s ALDS vs. the Twins, Rodriguez hit .455 and slugged 1.000.
He went from “Alexander the Goat” to “Alexander the Great.”
And Rodriguez has really turned it on this past month. In September, he hit .309 with nine homers, 26 RBIs, and maintained a .667 slugging percentage.
The Yankees certainly have plenty of things working for them. However, there are certainly a number of factors working against them as the playoffs begin…
Working Against The Yankees
· Home Field Disadvantage
I know many people say “home field advantage means nothing.” The fact is that home field advantage can mean something, especially because the Yankees do not have it at all this postseason.
Joe Torre said it best: “It’s hard to win extra-inning games on the road.”
He couldn’t be more correct. The Yankees lost five one-run games on the road in the month of September, along with dropping an extra-inning game against Boston this past weekend. In terms of the postseason…well…2004 at Fenway Park is evidence of that “hard-to-win extra-inning-games-on-the-road” mentality.
The Twins were also 53-28 this season at Target Field, which doesn’t help the Yankees’ cause.
· The REAL Andy Pettitte?
The Yankees’ Game Two starter has tremendous numbers in the playoffs. As the winningest pitcher in postseason baseball history, Andy Pettitte owns an 18-9 playoff record with an ERA of 3.90. Lifetime in the ALDS, Pettitte is 5-3 with a 3.73 ERA.
There’s no denying that Pettitte has been championship-tested. But what will we see this year?
Since coming back from his groin injury (suffered in July) Pettitte is 0-1 with a 6.75 ERA.
In his final start of 2010 on Saturday, Pettitte was roughed up by third-place Boston, getting chased from the game after four innings of work. He surrendered three earned runs and scattered nine hits, as he walked two batters and struck out eight.
Pettitte remains a little bit of a question mark right now. He hasn’t made it out of the fourth inning in each of his last two starts and has not won a game since July 8.
If the Yanks want to win it, Pettitte has to be in his regular, dominant form.
· Phil Hughes at Yankee Stadium
Although Phil Hughes has 11 wins at home this season, he is far from perfect. The Yankees’ Game Three starter has a 4.66 ERA when playing in the Bronx, opposed to a 3.47 ERA on the road.
Simply put, Hughes gives up more runs at home.
This season, Hughes has failed to keep the ball inside the Yankee Stadium Park. Of the 25 homers he surrendered, 20 of them were given up at Yankee Stadium.
Furthermore, of the 82 earned runs Hughes has allowed this year, 55 of them have been given up at home. He also issued 39 of his 58 walks at Yankee Stadium, subjecting his stats to worse numbers at home than on the road.
If you ask me, Hughes should be the Game Two starter, that way he does not have to pitch at home, where, as his numbers indicate, he tends to struggle.
· Alexi Casilla, Denard Span, and Michael Cuddyer
There are not many Twins hitters who have a great deal of success against CC Sabathia. Come to think of it, there aren’t many hitters in the entire American League who have a great deal of success against Sabathia.
However, Alexi Casilla owns a .692 batting average against Sabathia with one career RBI. Denard Span is .333 lifetime vs. Sabathia, and is a serious threat to run when he gets on base.
Michael Cuddyer only has a .222 batting average vs. Sabathia, but he has taken the Yankee ace deep once in his life for one RBI.
· Curtis Granderson vs. Left-Handed Pitching
Before the Yankees acquired him from Detroit, there was a lot of chatter about Curtis Granderson’s struggles against left-handed pitching. He finished the 2010 season with 24 homers and 67 RBIs on top of a .247 batting average.
However, against lefties this year, Granderson only hit .234.
This would not be such a problem if two of the first three Twins starters this postseason were not left-handed pitchers (Liriano and Duensing).
Granderson has a little bit of experience in the playoffs; in 2006 he made it all the way to the World Series as a member of the Tigers only to lose to the St. Louis Cardinals. Lifetime in the postseason he has a .226 average with three homers and seven RBIs.
How he performs in his first postseason as a Yankee remains to be seen, but he may need to spend some extra time in the batting cage if he continues to struggle against left-handers.
· Wild Card Losers
The Yankees were favorites to win the AL East, but it was swiped from under them on the last day of the season by the Tampa Bay Rays. The Bronx Bombers enter as the AL Wild Card winners, something that, historically, has not paid dividends.
The Yanks have never won the World Series when entering the postseason as the Wild Card.
In 1995, the Yankees won the AL Wild Card and were booted from playoff contention at the hands of the Seattle Mariners in the ALDS. In 2007, the Yanks once again captured the elusive Wild Card spot, only to fall to the Cleveland Indians in round one.
As much as the postseason history plays in the Yankees’ favor (their past vs. the Twins) it works against them (they have never won a World Series as a Wild Card team).
It’s anybody’s pennant to win. The road to 28 starts now…
First I’d like to apologize for not blogging in awhile. I have had a number of computer problems these past couple of weeks; my laptop has not been functioning properly and I haven’t been able to do any writing or Yankee Yapping.
Needless to say, not being able to write has been killing me!
My dad temporarily solved the problem and allowed me to borrow his laptop while mine gets fixed. So a big thank you goes out to him for that.
Anyway onto the topic of this entry…
Last Wednesday I visted Yankee Stadium for the fourth time this season and for the fourth time they won. The Bronx Bombers beat the Detroit Tigers 9-5 and went on to take three out of four from them. Mark Teixeira, Robinson Cano, and Curtis Granderson led the way for the Yanks, each with a home run on the night.
Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera put on a hitting show, smacking two homers of his own. Left fielder Don Kelly also homered for Detroit, as the ball was certainly exploding off the bats last Wednesday night.
The real story however was where I went before the game.
For the first time in the New Yankee Stadium I visited Monument Park. I only remember visiting Monument Park in the old Stadium once–July 2, 2002. Monument Park in the old Stadium was positioned behind the left-centerfield wall. It now sits directly behind the centerfield wall, and I have to say, the experience of going there in the new house just wasn’t the same.
Watching one of the first games in the new Stadium on TV last year, and subsequently taking notice of Monument Park, I remember thinking to myself, “How can the Yankees take any pride in what Monument Park looks like? In all honesty, it looks as if they decorated the area behind the centerfield wall with used furniture.”
I hate to think that way, but it’s the truth.
Modern day Monument Park simply doesn’t have the old school feeling anymore. With all the up-to-date features in the new ballpark, the place where the Yankees once honored their legends seems to have become just another meaningless, new-age attraction. Of course all of the same Monuments and plaques are still out there, but it is not the same.
Although I dislike the way Monument Park is constructed, I cannot say I am entirely unhappy with it. I loved seeing all the retired numbers and momentos, which I had not seen in eight years. For the first time I saw the monument built to remember those who lost their lives on September 11, 2001, which was a moving experience.
Along with the 9/11 monument, it was great to see the plaque the Yankees put up for Pope Benedict XVI. His Holiness celebrated mass in April of 2008, following in the footsteps of Pope Paul IV and Pope John Paul II, both of whom also celebrated mass at the old Stadium.
The aren’t kidding when they say Yankee Stadium is a cathedral.
After I left Monument Park Wednesday night I got to thinking: who will be the next Yankee to have is number retired? I came up with a number of possible candidates. Here they are…
Bernie Williams, 51
The Yankee centerfielder spent 16 seasons in pinstripes. He won four World Series Championships, six American League pennants, four Gold Glove Awards, the 1996 American League Championship Series MVP Award, the 1998 Batting Title, and was selected to the All-Star Game five times.
That’s a lot of accomplishments for one player with one team.
Looking past all of the awards and accolades, the most telling point about Williams is that he spent his entire career with the Yankees. In this day and age with free agency and trades, it’s remarkable that he was able to stay with the Yanks his whole career.
Although it almost didn’t happen.
After the 1998 season, Williams came dangerously close to leaving, due to the expiration of his contract. The Boston Red Sox were one of the leading teams that seeked out Williams and believe it or not, he almost went to the Red Sox. The Yankees were trying to acquire Albert Belle and nearly gave up their prize centerfielder.
I just could not have imagined Williams in a Red Sox uniform. It would have broke my heart, but honestly, I still would have loved him for all he did as a Yankee. Thankfully it did not get that far.
The Bronx Bombers came to their senses, dumped the idea for acquiring Belle, and Williams was back in pinstripes—not only for 1999, but for the rest of his career. He went on tho scale the Yankee all-time lists in hits, doubles, extra base hits, home runs, walks, and RBIs.
No one has worn his number 51 since he retired…or I should say since he did not return to the Yankees in 2007. If you ask me, Williams deserves the honor of having his number sit in Monument Park alongside the Yankee legends of old.
Paul O’Neill, 21
“The Warrior” spent nine seasons with the New York Yankees, all of them as a fan favorite. The short-temepred right fielder was selected to five All-Star Games and won a total of five World Series titles, four of them in pinstripes.
If anyone should be in Monument Park, it’s Paul O’Neill.
The late George Steinbrenner gave O’Neill his “Warrior” nickname sometime in the mid-’90s. Steinbrenner had seen how O’Neill reacted to certain calls made by umpires. When he did not agree with a call, he would let the ump know about it…most of the time in angry fashion.
O’Neill’s toughness never came into question.
In the past I have given my opinion on O’Neill, and I cannot say enough good about him. He was one of my all-time favorite Yankees and one of the most fierce competitors I have ever seen play the game of baseball. He had a strong hatred for losing and he will always be remembered by me as a winner.
In 2008, LaTroy Hawkins wore the number 21. Running in from the bullpen at Yankee Stadium, he was booed overwhelmingly. He asked Derek Jeter why he was being booed at home, and Jeter responded by saying that his number was the issue.
The next day Hawkins swapped his number 21 for 22.
Since then, the Yankees have taken the number out of circulation and no other player has worn it. It is my best guess that it will be retired by the Yankees at some point.
Joe Torre, 6
Although he is the current manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Joe Torre’s number is worthy of retirement in Yankee lore. Torre served as Yankee manager from 1996-2007, standing at the helm of 12 playoff appearances, four World Championships, and six A.L. pennants. He is also one of the winningest managers in Yankee history.
Before the Yanks won the World Series in 1996–Torre’s first year as Yankee skipper–the Bronx Bombers had not been to the World Series since 1981. There is no denying the fact that Torre brought the Yanks back from mediocrity and led the team to a Dynasty.
There’s no way the Yanks would have been as good as they were without his leadership.
However, the one thing that might prevent his number from being retired was his book. “The Yankee Years” (in a way) strained his relationship with the organization, and overall his departure left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth.
Nonetheless he is still a legendary Yankee and like Williams and O’Neill, his number has not been used by another Yankee player since he left.
I have mixed feelings about Torre right now. I love and respect everything he did as Yankee skipper but some of the remarks he made left me thinking about him. I also don’t agree with how he managed the bullpen toward the end of his tenure in pinstripes.
Yet I still believe he deserves a spot in Monument Park.
The last Yankee to have his number retired was Ron Guidry, back in 2003. Before Guidry, Don Mattingly’s number was retired in 1997. Looking at every number out in Monument Park, it seems there is at least one Yankee represented for every era.
I think what the team needs now is a player from the Dynasty of the late ’90s represented. Williams, O’Neill, and Torre all fit the bill and are all deserving of the honor. The question is, when will the next Yankee number be retired?
I hope they don’t wait until Jeter is done playing. If you ask me, they should give some other players their due and then when Jeter retires, hold the biggest ceremony ever in his honor.
Until then, consider Williams, O’Neill, and Torre.
The King is dead. Long live the King.
In Tampa, Fl. this morning, a legendary sports figure passed away. George M. Steinbrenner III, the principal owner of the New York Yankees since 1973, died at St. Joseph’s Hospital. He was 80 years old.
Steinbrenner suffered a heart attack earlier today and had been in declining health for a number of years. His two sons, Hank and Hal, have been running the Yankee organization since late 2007 while Steinbrenner oversaw all of the decisions made within the team.
When he took the reigns as Yankee owner from CBS, he brought the struggling Yankees back from mediocrity. Four years after he took over the organization, the Yankees won their first World Title in 15 years. Under Steinbrenner, the Yankees captured 16 Division Titles, 11 American League Pennants, and seven World Series Championships.
A strong body of successful work brought on by a strong man.
In 1952, Steinbrenner received his Bachelor’s Degree from Williams College in Massachusetts. While he attended Williams, he was involved with several extracurricular activities, including the track team and the football team.
One of his activities in college that struck me was his position as sports editor of the college newspaper. As a recent college graduate, the sports editor of my school’s newspaper was a position I held. It’s nice to know Steinbrenner and I had something in common.
After he graduated college, Steinbrenner went on to serve in United States Air Force, where he became a second lieutenant. He was honorably discharged in 1954 and went on to attend The Ohio State University where he got his Master’s in Physical Education.
Talk about a hard-working individual.
At OSU, he helped Buckeyes’ head coach Woody Hayes, serving as his assistant for a season. The Buckeyes were undefeated that year and went on to win the Rose Bowl. He also helped coach at Northwestern University and Purdue University, as he was always an avid sports fan.
As owner of the Yankees, Steinbrenner was known as a hard man. He maintained strict policies, such as the famous “no facial hair, no long hair” rule. He felt that the Yankees needed to look as professional as they possibly could, and ordered that all of his players be clean shaven with their hair cut short.
This edict was put to the test when Lou Piniella, a player and one of the 22 Yankee managers that served under Steinbrenner, once called him on it in Spring Training.
“Jesus Christ had long hair and a beard,” Piniella told Steinbrenner. “Why can’t we have beards and long hair?”
The Yankee owner showed him a small pond beyond the outfield fence.
“You see that pond?” Steinbrenner asked. “Walk across that pond and you can have a beard and long hair.”
He was able to show up his players with his wit and intelligence.
Along with being able to hold power, Steinbrenner was often at the center of controversy and attention. When free agency first became available in Major League Baseball, he signed huge free agents such as Reggie Jackson and Dave Winfield. Many fans of other teams criticized Steinbrenner for “buying championships and big name players.”
Not only that, but Steinbrenner was known for making questionable remarks about his players and even acting on those feelings. Winfield was an example of that. In 1980, he called out Winfield claiming that he wasn’t producing. He was removed by Fay Vincent, the commissioner of baseball at the time, for paying a gambler to “dig up dirt” on Winfield.
And that wasn’t the first time King George was involved with controversy.
Prior to the Winfield situation, Steinbrenner was suspended by Bowie Kuhn in 1974 for pleading guilty to making illegal contributions to Richard Nixon’s re-election campaign. But in lieu of all the controversy, Steinbrenner always made his way back to baseball and the Yanks.
Forgive and forget.
Although he was sometimes a difficult person, his sense of humor was apparent in his personality. He was featured on the television show Seinfeld, portrayed as a funny, eccentric man and the boss of George Costanza on the show. In reality, Steinbrenner loved it. He once said about the character, “You have to laugh at yourself, sometimes.”
His eccentric nature was evidenced during the 2000 World Series. A water pipe had burst in the visitors’ clubhouse at Shea Stadium, and Steinbrenner bent over the help clean up the mess. He said the Mets were probably responsible.
Along with that, he thought the Mets were spying on the Yankees with monitors, trying to figure out their game plan in order to win the title. David Cone played into the Boss’s speculation when he noticed a microphone under one of the tables in the clubhouse.
“Boss, there’s the microphone!” Cone joked.
Steinbrenner screamed to have the mic removed and the wire cut.
Buster Olney, former Yankee beat writer and author of “The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty” described Steinbrenner as an owner who “Would never entrust his team to God. It would mean giving up too much control.”
According to Olney, Steinbrenner could be both gracious and ruthless; both happy and scared. One executive (whom Olney did not name in his book) said, “He would pull over on the side of the road and give money to someone, then hours later he would cut the benefits of his employees. It made no sense.”
When the Yanks played in the World Series all the years Steinbrenner was owner, he was always convinced disaster was looming. The times the Yanks did win it all, his euphoria would never last. The day after the team won, he would be on the phones and in meetings, trying to figure out how to win the next year.
Winning was Steinbrenner’s number one priority. He was even quoted as saying, “Winning is the most important thing in my life, after breathing. Breathing first, and then winning.”
In a 2002 interview, Steinbrenner said he wanted this inscribed on his tombstone:
“He never stopped trying.”
And looking at his accolades and his body of work, Steinbrenner never did stop trying; he put forth his best effort in everything he did and usually triumphed in the end. The Boss put the Yankees back on the map and at the front of the marquee. He may have been loved by few and hated by many, but the bottom line is, he was respected by all.
“The other sports are just sports. Baseball is a love.“–Bryant Gumbel.
And God, do I love baseball. This weekend just increased my love for it.
Saturday I had the pleasure of going all the way up to Cooperstown, N.Y. to visit the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Last week, my best friends David and Vito made me an offer for my birthday/graduation gift: Yankee tickets for Saturday’s game vs. the Toronto Blue Jays (which the Yanks won 11-3) or a day trip to the hall.
I have already been to three Yankee games this season and will probably go to more by season’s end. I have only been to the Hall of Fame and Museum once in my life; Memorial Day weekend in 2007 with my dad.
Now given the opportunity to share the experience with my best friends, I took them up on their offer to Cooperstown; a three hour road trip to upstate New York. To me, there was no better way to spend part of the Independence Day weekend.
When we arrived to Cooperstown, I felt the same way I did back in ’07. The town itself is small and gives you such an old-time feel. Complete with a General Store and even a trolley service, Main Street in Cooperstown, simply put, is awesome.
The one gripe I really have against Main Street is the food spots. There aren’t too many places to eat up there, at least not many of you want to eat something quickly. As a matter of fact, my friends and I ate at the same restaurant my dad and I ate at the last time I visited Cooperstown.
Not that the food is bad, it’s great. But not having fast food spots around just is not convenient when you want to move things along and see all the sights in one day. But I guess that goes with the old-time ambience; there was no such thing as McDonald’s back in the old days.
After we finished our lunch, my friends and I headed for the Museum. It was just as nice as I remember it; the big brick building at the end of the road filled with historical baseball artifacts from all over the world. More importantly, it’s filled with more historic Yankee memorabilia than you could ever imagine.
When we first walked in, the usher told us that the best place to start the tour was on the third floor of the museum. We ascended the stairs and right away it was almost as if the baseball history slapped us across the face. We were immediately greeted with the origin of baseball and how the game came to be.
One of my favorite parts about the “first origins of baseball exhibit” were the artifacts about Henry Chadwick. According the Museum, Chadwick was the “Father of Baseball” and reported on the sport for several newspapers. He dedicated his whole life to sports writing, and as an aspiring sports writer myself, I have to respect that and give him a lot of credit.
Without Chadwick, no baseball writer would be where they are today. For the record, Chadwick’s column was called Chadwick’s Chat. I think it is very cool title. It has the alliterative grammar quality, just like Yankee Yapping.
Next we entered the Babe Ruth Room at the Museum. Yes, the Babe Ruth Room. The Bambino had such an impact on the game of baseball that he owns his own private quarters in the hall.
On display are many of his jerseys, trophies, his cleats, and even the bat he smacked his final career home run with. While you visit the Babe Ruth Room, a video about his life plays, which really makes it a learning experience.
After Ruth’s Room we embarked on the “Pride and Passion” leg of the journey. On display–basically everything you can think of from every Yankee legend there is. We saw Babe Ruth’s crown (given to him by Ralph Kiner) Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, and Mickey Mantle’s jerseys, the bat Roger Maris hit his 61st home run with in 1961, and even Yogi Berra’s Most Valuable Player Award from 1951.
It was overwhelming! A lot of Yankee history to take in all at once.
Eventually the Yankee memorabilia turned from old to contemporary. We moved on from relics of the ghosts of long past and onto the pinstripe mementos of the not-so-distant past.
On display were Derek Jeter’s spikes from the 1996 World Series, Mariano Rivera’s jersey from the 1999 World Series, and even a lineup card used by Joe Torre in 1998–the year the Bronx Bombers won 114 regular season games and eventually the Championship.
Also on display was the 1996 World Series trophy. One thought about that, however. I’m not sure if it was the actual trophy or a replica of the trophy. Today at Yankee Stadium, that trophy was on display in honor of George Steinbrenner, as it was his birthday and the Yanks won that title under him as principal owner. Did they take that trophy from Cooperstown and get it to Yankee Stadium for today’s game? Is there more than one trophy?
Who knows. Whatever the case, I took a picture with it.
After the “Pride and Passion” exhibit, we went into a room filled with pieces of old Stadiums. We got a feel for what Ebbets Field looked like, saw one of the original pinwheels from Comiskey Park in Chicago, and sat in old seats from Veteran’s Stadium in Philadelphia. Also showcased was the Phillies Phanatic…well, at least his costume.
In 2007 I remembered taking a picture of me pretending to smack the Phanatic with my program. I recreated the same picture yesterday.
We then entered the records room; a place reserved to acknowledge all the records held by active and retired players.
For example, Jeter is currently playing and leads all active players in the hits category. Pete Rose, on the other hand, is retired and owns the record for most all-time hits.
Same thing goes for Alex Rodriguez and Ricky Henderson; Rodriguez leads all current players in runs scored while Henderson is the all-time leader in runs scored.
It’s very fascinating and the museum seems to keep the record walls up-to-date.
After that we came to the “Autumn Glory” room. It is packed with World Series and postseason knick-knacks. The museum owns a ring from every World Series Championship team since rings began being distributed. Of course I spotted the Yankee rings from the Dynasty of the late ’90s and I really thought it was one of the better parts of the tour.
After all, winning isn’t everything. It’s just the only thing that matters. Win the World Series and your team’s ring gets a one-way ticket to enshrinement in the Hall.
I noticed in ’07 that the case in the “Autumn Glory” room contains mementos from the most recent World Series. So when I visited the Hall of Fame in 2007, artifacts from the 2006 World Series (played between the St. Louis Cardinals and Detroit Tigers) were showcased.
If my memory serves me correct, the Yankees won the latest World Series. Therefore, a bunch of items from the 2009 World Series were on display, including CC Sabathia’s cleats, Hideki Matsui’s Game Six bat, and Jose Molina’s catcher’s mask.
But the item in the case that stood out like sore thumb…the 2009 Championship ring.
That’s what it’s all about.
After the “Autumn Glory” room, we entered the “No-Hit Games” exhibit. Showcased were baseballs used in practically every no-hitter and perfect game in history.
I was able to pick out David Wells’s and David Cone’s baseballs; both Yankee hurlers tossed perfect games; Wells in 1998 and Cone in 1999. Not only was each ball signed by the pitcher, but information on the score and opponent was given in a card underneath the ball.
Again, it all goes back to idea of learning and preserving history.
We came across one last Yankee portion of the museum before we entered the Hall of Fame: an exhibit entitled “Pinstripe Pictures.” There were so many photos of so many memorable Yankee moments that I almost cried. Everything from Aaron Boone’s blast in Game Seven of the ’03 ALCS to Gehrig and DiMaggio, it was amazing.
Probably the best picture I saw was the Yankees lifting Cone up on their shoulders after his perfecto in ’98. I couldn’t help but think of the words used by Buster Olney in his book about it:
“Cone’s teammates lifted him after his perfect game on July 18, 1999. Throughout the season, in more subtle ways, he lifted them.”
I think that really speaks to Cone’s character. He was always one of my favorites.
Once we were finished looking at all the Yankee pictures, we finally came to the Hall of Fame Plaque Gallery. Every member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame is honored and remembered with a plaque with their likeness and a short description of their career accomplishments. We found all the Yankees and read about each player.
Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Mantle, Berra, Jackson, Gossage…if you were to ask me, the Yankees virtually own the Hall of Fame. They have more members than any other team, and the reason for that is their history; the Yankees are the best and more storied team in baseball history. That’s pretty much the bottom line.
Once we were finished in the gallery, we headed upstairs to the final leg of our tour: a view of the Writer’s Wing of the hall (which I one day hope to be a part of), the library atrium, and the “Baseball at the Movies” exhibit, where they listed every baseball movie ever made.
My favorite part of the Writer’s Wing was the setup of the announcing booth in the old Yankee Stadium. The Museum (in a devilishly clever way) built a mock announcer’s box, which gives you a sense of what it feels like to be a baseball broadcaster.
It’s such a neat feature they added to the Writer’s Wing of the hall and I can only hope one day I get to sit and work in the real reporting booth at Yankee Stadium.
We headed outside and looked at the crazy statues that are in the hall’s courtyard. There are some interesting likenesses of old-time pitchers and catchers. These statues really afforded me and my friends the opportunity to snap some funny-looking pictures. For instance, the statue of Satchel Paige and his high leg kick…
Go ahead and laugh. That’s why I took the photo.
We then took a walk down the road and visited Doubleday Field, the supposed birthplace of baseball. We jaunted inside the ballpark and wouldn’t you know it, a game was going on. We sat and watched about four innings of baseball from the grandstands. A small crowd was on hand; the building was nowhere near filled.
Last time I visited Cooperstown in ’07, I only got to see the exterior of the park. I was elated that I finally got to see the interior and even watch some a game that just happened to begin the minute we arrived at the park. I have to say, it’s a nice little field. And again, it’s one of the most historic parks in baseball lore.
After we paid our visit to Doubleday Field, we (lastly) traveled to the Cooperstown Baseball Heroes Wax Museum. I had gone back in ’07 and enjoyed enough that I wanted to go again, not to mention Dave and Vito wanted to see it for themselves.
The Wax Museum was again a wonderful experience. There are wax figures of many Yankees, including Mantle, DiMaggio (along with Marilyn Monroe), Wade Boggs (riding off on the horse like he did at the conclusion of the ’96 World Series) and countless others.
Yet my favorite sculpture has to be “The Georges.” The wax museum crafted a figure to look like George Costanza, Jason Alexander’s character from Seinfeld. George is sitting in his office opposite George Steinbrenner, his boss on the show. Costanza is one of my all-time favorite TV characters and to see the figures setup the way they were made me laugh.
Another one of my favorites was the Abbot & Costello “Who’s on First” figures. They even had the words from the comedy routine playing on a speaker in the background as you viewed the statues. Believe it or not, that comedy bit is a huge part of baseball history; it is so funny that it has withstood the test of time and is still remembered by die-hard baseball lovers, such as myself.
After we saw everything there is to see in Cooperstown, we headed back to the car; another three hour ride ahead of us. I can say that I got the same amount out of the experience of the National Baseball Hall of Fame the second time, probably even more.
After I went in ’07 with my dad, I thought to myself, “Going to Cooperstown was incredible, and it was very meaningful to share this experience with dad. I’d like to go back eventually and share it with my best friends.”
I got that chance and I jumped at it. And what an experience it was. One I won’t forget. As a result of this trip, my love for baseball just increased by tenfold, if that’s even possible.
Think back to the movie “Rocky V” for a second. I know it’s hard to, since it’s the worst sequel in the “Rocky” movie series. Boxing promoter George Washington Duke wants Rocky to fight his protégé Tommy “The Machine” Gunn. In the end Rocky takes him on in a street fight and mercilessly beats him.
“Rocky V” came out in 1990. Now fast forward to Saturday–it was almost the same principle.
The Los Angeles Dodgers, headed by former New York Yankee manager Joe Torre, decisively beat Joe Girardi’s Yanks 9-4. The Bronx Bombers had won on Friday by a count of 2-1, setting up the rubber game yesterday night.
Girardi served as a player and a coach under Torre, so in the words of Duke, it would be “Old lion vs. young lion; teacher vs. pupil” for the series win.
And what a rubber game it was.
The Dodgers seemingly had an easy series victory heading into the ninth inning, leading 6-2 with one out and the flame-throwing Jonathan Broxton on the mound. Who would have guessed the Yankees would play the role of comeback kids?
The Bombers scored four runs in the ninth frame to knot the game at six. A double by Robinson Cano to score Alex Rodriguez, a single by Chad Huffman to score Cano and Jorge Posada, and a fielder’s choice by Colin Curtis to score Curtis Granderson.
An improbable, but not impossible comeback–how many times have we seen this from the Yankees? (Whether they were managed by Torre or Girardi)
Cano later played the role of hero, belting a long two-run homer to left-center field in the top of the tenth, his 15th round-tripper of the season, to put the Yankees up 8-6.
From there they never looked back, taking the series from the Dodgers 2-1 and leaving So-Cal with a record of 47-28, still in first place in the AL East.
The pupil prevailed over the teacher this weekend, and it really came down to the pitching.
Broxton had thrown 19 pitches on Saturday and tossed an overwhelming amount of pitches during last night’s game. In fact, the Dodgers’ closer threw 48 pitches over the one inning he worked.
Don’t you think that’s enough? Closers are not supposed to be throwing 67 pitches over two days. They are not really built for that kind of work. Granted, the Yankees were extremely patient with Broxton; Posada and Curtis both worked 10-pitch at-bats, while Granderson worked an eight-pitch at-bat.
Among all three of those hitters, Broxton tossed 28 pitches.
But Torre refused to take him out. It even took him awhile to get another pitcher up and warming in the bullpen before Broxton went on to blow the lead. When he could have taken Broxton out for another pitcher, he left him in the game, only to lose it.
And this, my friends, is (why I think) the Yankees had to let Torre go.
Do not misunderstand me; I have nothing but respect for him. Every year he was Yankee manager he led his team to the playoffs. Four times out of those 12 (which would translate to 1/3 of his years as Yankee manager) he took them all the way to the World Series Title. Six out of those 12 seasons (or 1/2 of his years as Yankee manager) the Yankees were in the World Series.
From where the Yankees were (which in a lot of ways they were in a state of mediocrity from the early 1980s into the late ’90s) Torre brought them back. He turned the team around and the Yankees, under Torre, once again became THE YANKEES.
Torre’s resume and what he did at the helm of the Yankees speaks for itself. Four World Titles, six pennants…that’s just amazing. Most managers can only dream about what Torre did when he was the head man for the Bronx Bombers.
However some of his decisions regarding the bullpen were often criticized, especially towards the end of his run in 2006 and 2007. As far as that criticism goes, it was well-deserved. He over-used many of his bullpen pitchers and slowly they faded away; they lost their luster and were never the same pitchers again.
Consider former Yankee relief pitcher Scott Proctor. From 2004-05 with the Yankees (and under Torre) he only made 56 appearances out of the bullpen–which is respectable over a two-year span. But in 2006, Torre used him out of the ‘pen 83 times and he tossed a mind-numbing 102 1/3 innings.
For a reliever, that’s just absurd; it’s not even fair! And it was the same story in 2007.
Before the Yankees traded him to the Dodgers for Wilson Betemit in the middle of the ’07 season, Proctor was used 52 times with 54 1/3 innings already under his belt. He once again finished the season with 83 appearances and 86 1/3 innings pitched.
Again, it just wasn’t right for Torre to use him that many times.
Buster Olney, baseball insider and author of “The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty” mentioned in his book that one of Torre’s former pitchers (who chose to go unnamed) said, “I think Joe Torre is a great manager. He nearly ruined my arm, but he is a great manager.”
I have no doubt in my mind that Proctor was the pitcher who said this.
On the night of Oct. 8, 2007, Yankee Stadium burst into a loud chant of “Joe Torr-e (clap, clap, clap-clap-clap!)” It was his final game as Yankee manager and this was the fans’ way of saying goodbye, as they knew this would probably be his last round as Yankee skipper.
I was watching the game at home and something was happening to me; I felt strange and sad. I also knew Torre’s days as head of the Yankees were numbered and as soon as the Yankees exited the first round of the playoffs he would probably be gone.
It was sad to me, because he was really the only Yankee manager I knew; when Buck Showalter was the manger before Torre, I was young and not nearly as big of a Yankee fan as I am now.
I remember texting my dad after the game was over, and I expressed my sadness about Torre. My dad’s response: “It doesn’t matter what the Yankees do. He is still the BEST manager in baseball!”
That text message almost made me cry–because at the time I believed it was true.
The Yankees offered Torre a small salary at the conclusion of ’07–$6 million for a year, plus an additional $million for every round of the playoffs he could make it through. If he could reach and win the World Series, he could potentially make $9 million.
The offer, to me, was insulting and disrespectful.
How could the Yankees, in their right minds, basically (in not so many words) say, “Well Mr. Torre, you haven’t won the title in a long time; seven years, in fact. Maybe the money will give you extra incentive to want to win it all again.”
In his first year as Yankee manager, Torre brought them a title. It had been 18 years since the Yankees had won a Championship. The New York newspapers even went out of their way to call him “Clueless Joe” when he was named skipper, thinking he had no idea what he was doing.
He certainly proved that he did know what he was doing when it came to management–at least up until the end of his tenure.
Apparently the Yankee organization looked past all that when they came up with the poor excuse for a deal. I still cannot believe they offered him that deal, but I also think the Yankees knew what they were doing; I think they wanted to make him that deal because they knew he wouldn’t accept it.
Basically, they were trying to move him out and they succeeded.
It seems now that the Yankees (in a way) have turned on Torre. There has been speculation about a “rift” between Torre and Brian Cashman, the Yankees’ General Manager. After all, Cashman is responsible for coming up with the deals and is really the main person in charge of negotiations, so the idea for Torre’s insulting deal could have been his brainchild.
I don’t think Torre’s book “The Yankee Years” helped at all, either.
In the book, Torre mentioned something about Rodriguez and how he and others called him “A-Fraud.” I never really heard Torre deny the claim or refute it in any way, so maybe he did say some unfavorable things about his superstar player.
As for Rodriguez: he didn’t care. When A-Rod was going through the “steroid saga” prior to the 2009 season, Torre’s comments in the book came up in questioning. Rodriguez simply stated, “I’m a good receiver, not a good ragger. When people rag on me, I take it. But I don’t like to rag on other people.”
Torre and Rodriguez hadn’t spoken until Sunday, when A-Rod approached his former manager during batting practice and talked with him. If you ask me, it was one of those, “Everyone has noticed we haven’t said anything to each other, so let’s just say something to each other to get them off our backs.”
It’s nothing Bill Belichick hasn’t done a million times in his life.
If the media hadn’t pointed it out, would Rodriguez have said anything to Torre at all? I’m not sure. I don’t really think it matters now, anyway. They acknowledged one another and now the press can stop talking about it.
All I can say now is that I have the utmost respect for Torre. I don’t think he makes the right decisions in terms of his bullpen, and last night was just another example of that. To leave Broxton in for that long was simply a bad move; it backfired on him, as it has several times when he was Yankee manager.
Yet I haven’t forgotten him; in my mind, he will always be a Yankee legend. No matter how bad his rift is with the organization, no matter what he said in his book, and no matter how far away he is, he will always be my favorite Yankee skipper.
But…I am sure glad we beat him this weekend. I love Torre, but I LOVE the Yankees.