As the end of the 2010 regular Major League Baseball season rapidly approaches, the Yankees once again have lived to play autumn baseball in New York. At the very least, the Bronx Bombers will go into the postseason as the American League Wild Card team. Yet they can still capture the American League Eastern Division over the Tampa Bay Rays.
At press time they are a ½ game out of first place in the AL East.
With only three games left after tonight’s 8-3 loss vs. the Toronto Blue Jays, it is once again time to hand out the Yankee Yapping End of the Year Awards. Last year I gave out various commendations to numerous Yankees who showed what being a Bronx Bomber is all about.
Since 2010 was a stark contrast to 2009, there are new awards this year to accommodate what each player has done or accomplished this past season. Without any further ado, here are the 2010 Yankee Yapping Awards!
Yankee Yapping Most Valuable Player
Winner: Robinson Cano
The Yankees are very lucky to have a player like Robinson Cano. This season, the slugging second baseman has put together an MVP caliber season with 28 home runs and 106 RBIs to this point. His numbers indicate a great year, but he did not win the YY MVP simply because of his offensive production.
His defense and overall character put him over the top.
In 155 games at second base this season (talk about durability!) Cano has only committed three errors. He has also helped turn 111 double plays and has secured a fielding percentage of .996.
Can you say Gold Glove?
Cano has also had the most consistent season among all Yankee hitters. Derek Jeter is currently hitting under .300, Mark Teixeira got off to a tortoise-like start, and Alex Rodriguez spent time on the disabled list. Cano did not slip under .300 this year, nor did he start off slow or get injured.
His season has all the makings of a valuable player.
Yankee Yapping’s Most Pleasant Surprise
Winner: Marcus Thames
I’ll be the first to admit that when the Yankees let Johnny Damon go…or he let himself go…that I thought picking up Marcus Thames was a bad idea. He had already been a Yankee in 2002, although he was not what we would call a real Yankee.
Everyone knows that, in his first stint in pinstripes, Thames clubbed his first career home run in his first career at-bat off brand-name future Hall of Famer Randy Johnson. What most people don’t know is that home run was the only long ball Thames hit in his first go-round with the Yankees and he only played seven games.
2010 was his second chance and he certainly took advantage of it.
To go along with his batting average of .291, Thames has smacked 12 home runs this year and has driven in 33 runs. Two of his homers this season stand out to me.
First off, his third home run of the year, which came on July 11–only because of who he hit it off: Brian Sweeney of the Seattle Mariners.
As almost everyone knows by now, I interviewed Sweeney over the summer and he is a graduate of my College. That home run was bittersweet for me. I was happy to see Thames get around on a hanging curveball and smash a homer, but at the same time I felt bad for Sweeney.
Being such a nice guy and, without any sarcasm, the best interview I have ever conducted, I had no choice but to feel remorseful for my fellow Mercy alumnus. But Thames did a fantastic job of clubbing the ball!
The second home run that sticks out was his walk-off blast against Jonathan Papelbon and the Boston Red Sox on May 17. After A-Rod tied the game with one swing of the bat, Thames played the role of hero and swatted Papelbon to a loss.
A glorious home run to cap off a glorious victory over Boston in the Bronx.
I may have said some harsh things about him at the beginning of the year when he struggled, but he has proved me wrong. Congrats Marcus!
Yankee Yapping Player Who Needs to Improve for 2011
Winner: A.J. Burnett
He had a terrible season. I know. All of Yankee Universe knows. The whole world knows.
A.J. Burnett has one more start this season (on Saturday in Boston) and will finish 2010 under .500. He is currently 10-15 with an earned run average of 5.33. In his last 10 games Burnett is 1-6 with an ERA of 6.26. Opponents are hitting .286 against him and he has allowed 107 earned runs this season.
If that doesn’t scream the words “off-year” I really don’t know what does.
Many Yankee fans are skeptical about how he will perform in the postseason and would not trust Burnett with the ball in an important game. Yankee Universe also feels he should be bumped from the number two spot in the starting rotation; some are even going as far as saying he should be put in the bullpen.
I agree. He should be bumped from the number two spot and I doubt that he will be plugged into any spot in the starting rotation, at least for the American League Division Series. If he goes to the bullpen, he might be able to carve a niche for himself, the same way Phil Hughes did last year in relief.
Although Burnett had an abysmal year, the one thing I will not do is give up on him. I understand how poorly he produced over the summer, but something many fans forget is that he began the year at 4-0 with an ERA under three. He got off to the best start of his career only to have it collapse on him; the most successful start of his life tragically morphed into the worst season he has ever had.
The other day I was asked if the Yankees would trade Burnett over the off-season because of his poor season.
The answer is easy: No. Here are three reasons Burnett is staying in pinstripes.
1) His salary. He is owed $49.5 million over the next three years. Give me the name of a team who is going to pick up that tab? Oh, that’s right. You can’t.
2) His trade value. With his lopsided numbers, who would want him?
3) The Yankees’ faith in their big free agent pitchers. Anyone remember Carl Pavano? He was owed less money than Burnett, pitched worse than Burnett, and the Yankees held onto him without even trying to shop him.
It’s no contest. Burnett will be in pinstripes for awhile.
And while he is in pinstripes, he needs to learn how to handle himself, go out and win games. I have seen how physically capable Burnett is really is when he is pitching. He can throw 96-98 mph fastballs, something not even Mike Mussina could pull off in 2008, the year he won 20 games.
I think it’s all mental when it comes to Burnett’s struggles. Perhaps he should consult the team psychiatrist. Wait, is there a team psychiatrist?
At any rate, it’s a not a particularly good award to win, A.J. But I still have faith that you can improve, bounce back, have a solid postseason like last year and return strong in 2011.
I still believe in you, A.J. We A.J.s have to stick together through thick and thin.
Yankee Yapping Sayonara Award
Winners: Javier Vazquez and Nick Johnson
First of all, allow me to explain the nature of this award. I am handing out this award to two players who the Yankees signed, are not under contract for next season, and are most likely not coming back next year.
I had no choice but to give it Javier Vazquez and Nick Johnson.
When the Yankees decided to acquire Vazquez during the off-season, I was unbelievably confused. With a somewhat failed season in pinstripes already under his belt (2004) it shocked me that the Yanks went out and traded Melky Cabrera for Vazquez during the winter meetings.
This season just proved to me that Vazquez is not and never was suited for pinstripes. The reason the Yanks wanted him was because of how well he pitched last season, but what they did not take into consideration was that he pitched in the National League.
Vazquez made the move from the NL to the AL, and not just the AL–the AL East, where the best of the best play. And when he made that move, he traveled to a 10-10 record this year with an ERA over five.
That’s enough to say, “Thanks, but no thanks. See ya, Javy.”
Now onto Johnson…
Talk about a waste of money and time. I think his uncle, Larry Bowa, should chastise him for being such a mediocre and otherwise useless ballplayer. The Yanks signed Johnson to be an everyday designated hitter and replace Hideki Matsui in the lineup.
His numbers: 24 games played, two home runs, eight RBIs, and a .167 batting average.
Sorry, I had to run to my bathroom and puke.
Both Vazquez and Johnson are no longer under contract for 2011. Thank God.
Congrats on the award, fellas. Have fun on another team next season!
Yankee Yapping Ace of the Year
Winner: CC Sabathia
When all the dust had cleared at the end of 2009, CC Sabathia had 22 wins, including the postseason. The postseason has not even begun this year and the Yankees’ number one man has 21 wins. With that, he became the first Yankee to win 21 games in the regular season since Andy Pettitte, who accomplished the feat in 1996.
If the regular season is any indication of how Sabathia will perform in October, the Yankees will be in excellent shape every time he toes the rubber. Just as Burnett has had the worst season of his career, Sabathia has statistically had the best season he has ever had.
Needless to say, he is a shoe in for the Cy Young Award. CC might very well be “Cy Cy.”
Sabathia logged 237 2/3 innings this year, coupled with 197 strikeouts. He made 34 starts, tossed two complete games, and opponents only hit .239 against him.
If all goes right for him again, he could capture another postseason MVP award, as he was the American League Championship Series MVP in 2009. Either way, I have no doubt that Sabathia will have more hardware in his trophy case very soon.
Until then he is the Yankee Yapping Ace of the Year. Congrats CC!
*Note: CC has won this award for the second year in a row!
Yankee Yapping Best Trade Deadline Pickup
Winner: Kerry Wood
When the trade deadline neared the end, the Yankees picked up three notable players: Lance Berkman, Austin Kearns, and Kerry Wood. Without a doubt, Wood has made the best impact of all three players.
Wood was the Cleveland Indians’ closer and the Yankees needed to add a reliever to aid their scuffling bullpen. Suffice it to say, they added the right man. Wood has posted a low ERA in pinstripes and has really become a solid arm in relief.
Throughout his career, Wood has taken a lot of criticism because of his injuries; I am sure the Yankees knew about that when they traded for him. However, he was a former National League Rookie of the Year (1998, with the Chicago Cubs) and certainly possessed the capability to change the atmosphere of the bullpen.
It’s almost as if when Wood arrived, things started to turn around for them.
I remember his first outing as a Yankee against the Tampa Bay Rays. When Wood tossed that knee-buckling breaking ball and caught Evan Longoria looking like a deer in headlights, I knew right then and there he would fit in right away.
And he has.
Looking at his last 10 appearances alone is proof of that: 10 innings, no runs, four hits, five walks, 12 strikeouts, and an ERA of 0.00. He has flourished in his role as a late-inning relief pitcher and if he keeps it moving, he will be a wonderful asset when the playoffs begin.
Yankee Yapping Reliever of the Year
Winner: David Robertson
I know what everyone is thinking: how in the world could I have not awarded this honor to Mariano Rivera?! I would just like to say that The Great Rivera is his own “Walking Award,” so-to-speak. Rivera won it last year and he followed that up with another Mo-like season.
32 saves and a puny 1.32 ERA. Typical Mo.
But I am giving it to David Robertson simply because of how far he has come this year. At the outset of the season, Robertson could not get anyone out. He was placed in easy-going situations and lost control of everything.
Case-in-point: Opening Day vs. the Los Angeles Angels.
Robertson came into the game in a situation where there was absolutely no pressure; the Yankees were ahead 7-1 in the top of the ninth inning and he allowed that pressure get to him. He wound up surrendering a grand slam to Bobby Abreu and he nearly gave up the game because of it.
Yet, what struck me was what he said the day after it happened. I remember reading in the news the next day that he grabbed his glove before the game and had two words:
That’s precisely the attitude that won him this award. Well, that and his 67 strikeouts in 59 2/3 innings pitched this season. He never gave up, battled back from defeat, and is a solid and trustworthy arm out of the bullpen.
He deserves the honor. Congrats David!
Yankee Yapping Warrior Award
Winner: Mark Teixeira
As I mentioned before, Mark Teixeira began the season awfully slow. He was singled out on ESPN and every other sports media outlet about how he was not producing along with being criticized for his low batting average and meager power numbers.
But by around June it all changed and the sleeping giant woke up.
The power-hitting first baseman flipped the “on switch” and quickly became the dangerous hitter he has always been. Teixeira will finish 2010 with over 30 home runs and 100 RBIs for his second straight year in pinstripes.
He has 33 home runs and 107 RBIs at press time.
The reason he is regarded as a warrior is because he has been playing for a number of days, possibly even weeks, with a broken toe. Despite a relatively painful injury, he managed to keep himself in the lineup and at first base every day.
Obviously playing in pain, Teixeira maintained his season and never let it affect him; Paul O’Neill, revered as the consummate “Yankee Warrior,” would certainly be proud of him.
Yankee Yapping Grand Slam Champion
Winner: Alex Rodriguez
Whip out the mustard and rye: it’s grand salami!
Not once. Not twice. But three times this season Alex Rodriguez has delivered with the bases loaded. The former three-time AL MVP clobbered three grand slams this season, which accounts for 3/10 of the Yankees’ grand slams this year.
In fact, the Yankees tied their single season record for grand slams, originally set in 1987–Don Mattingly led the Yanks that year with six grannies out of their 10.
On May 14, Rodriguez visited granny for the first time this season. Minnesota Twins reliever intentionally walked Teixeira to pitch to Rodriguez–a strategy that never seems to pay off, according to the numbers. The Yankee third baseman responded by crushing a go-ahead grand slam over the left field wall to give the Yanks a 7-4 edge.
They went on to win 8-4.
On May 31, merely 17 days after the slam vs. the Twins, A-Rod stepped up to the plate against the Indians. With a full count, Rodriguez smashed a bomb into Monument Park, a glorious grand slam home run to give the Yanks a 6-1 lead over the Tribe.
Once again the Bombers cruised to a victory, 11-2 over Cleveland.
Rodriguez struck one last slam on July 6 in Oakland vs. the Athletics. A-Rod helped slam the Yanks to a 6-1 win. He came up in the top of the third and blasted a grand slam off Trevor Cahill, driving in four out of the Yankees’ five runs that inning.
In addition to his slam, Rodriguez later came up in the sixth and hit a solo homer, as he knocked in five of the Yanks’ six runs by himself.
A-Rod’s excellence and ability to come through when the bases are loaded earned him this award. Hopefully he can continue to rake when the postseason starts.
Well that does it for this year. Either way it goes, the Yankees have an opportunity to repeat as World Champs. While whether they win it all or not remains to be seen, it’s clear these standout players made a difference in New York this season.
Congrats to all the Yankee Yapping Award winners and to all of the Yankees.
We’ll see you in October. Good luck!
On May 15, 2009 Brett Gardner made history. In a game he wasn’t even originally part of (thank Johnny Damon for getting himself ejected) he raced 360 feet around the Yankee Stadium bases in a dashing 14 seconds for an inside-the-park home run against the Minnesota Twins.
Yes, 14 seconds. The Flash and Sonic the Hedgehog can eat their hearts out.
Many people are familiar about the real story behind the home run. A young lady by the name of Alyssa Esposito had given Gardner a bracelet earlier in the day, claiming that if he held onto the bracelet he would hit a home run.
Her premonition came true.
Gardner became the first Yankee since Ricky Ledee to hit an inside the park home run. Ledee accomplished the feat on Aug. 29, 1999 vs. the Seattle Mariners. The speedy Gardner finished the night 3-for-3 with the in-the-parker, and even led off the ninth inning with a triple that sparked the Yankees’ come-from-behind rally.
The Yanks went on to win the game 5-4 on a Melky Cabrera walk-off single.
Gardner left the Stadium that day, not only with an inside-the-park homer, but with a lifelong friend–Esposito. The 18 year-old (now 19) was waiting for four months for a heart transplant and received it the night of Gardner’s amazing show of speed.
The courageous young lady recently spoke to Yankee Yapping about her experience, what she is up to now after her successful surgery, and how she made it to the back of Gardner’s baseball card.
Yankee Yapping: Were you always a Yankee fan, or did your experience with Brett Gardner make you one?
Alyssa Esposito: I was never a Yankee fan, but I also was never a baseball fan in general either. I guess I was raised a Mets “fan” until I met Brett Gardner at the hospital. Now I watch every game on TV, and root for the Yankees. I never realized how cool and exciting baseball was until after Brett hit the inside the park homerun.
YY: What was Brett’s initial reaction when you gave him the bracelet?
AE: Overall Brett is a really sweet and humble guy. He really connected with each patient after he read a book at the hospital event, provided by Project Sunshine. When I gave him the bracelet he gave me a really big smile that just made my day. I could tell that he was hesitant about the fact that I said it would help him hit a homerun, but like I said, that’s the humble guy inside.
YY: After your heart surgery you found out Gardner hit the inside-the-park home run. What were your thoughts after it happened?
AE: It’s actually a pretty funny story. Supposedly my family told me Brett hit the inside-the-park home run right before I went into surgery, but the heavy duty drugs the doctors give me to put me to sleep must have gotten to my memory which made me not remember.
But I was reminded as soon as I woke up from my surgery.
My family also showed me the replay after my transplant but apparently I had to watch it several times and I was told I had said “He’s running for me”, which brought tears to my Mom’s eyes. At that time the medicine from surgery and also the pain medicine was still wearing off.
YY: A number of publications and media outlets called you Gardner’s good luck charm that night. Can you explain how that feels?
AE: I smile whenever I hear or read that I am Brett’s good luck charm but honestly I really think God just set it all up. He took two unlikely circumstances and made them into two miracles. As of this day whenever I think about what has happened, I get the chills.
YY: After the May 15 win over the Twins, the Yankees went on a stretch where they went 17-9. Did you at all feel you really were their good luck charm?
AE: I like to think that I am their good luck charm in a way that they just got a boost from the inside-the-park home run Gardner hit. Maybe they felt that anything is possible and that just made them want to try even harder.
YY: It’s every little boy’s dream to have his face printed on a baseball card. You are on the back of Brett Gardner’s card. How did that happen?
AE: I didn’t know about the story being on the back of Gardner’s baseball card until a mother of a girl I graduated high school with asked me on Facebook if I knew about it.
Her son has a collection of baseball cards and his mother was looking through them one day and came across Brett’s. She had said her son wanted me to have it, which I thought was the absolute sweetest thing. She mailed it to me and when I went to a Yankee game, Brett signed it for me.
YY: After your transplant you reunited with the Yanks and Gardner. How special was it to see Brett again and was it an emotional experience?
AE:The first time I saw Brett after my heart transplant was at a press conference at the hospital. It was very emotional seeing all of my doctors there to support the hospital.
Brett and I spoke for a few minutes to just catch up and talk personally. It was just an overwhelming feeling being there with the healthy new heart inside of me and reuniting with Brett. I thought it was a special day because I got to meet him when I was actually healthy and full of energy.
YY: The other Yankees gave you some pretty cool gifts when you went to your first game after the operation, huh?
AE: The first Yankee game my family and I went to after my heart transplant was the most fun I have had in a long time. The stadium is amazing and it was my first time going there. Each one of the Yankees I met are extremely nice and they were all concerned about how I was feeling after my surgery.
Nick Swisher was full of excitement and energy and I loved his huge smile on his face. He referred to me as “The Gardner Girl” when he came up to me, and I absolutely love that nickname!
Alex Rodriguez had signed both of his gloves he had just used for batting practice and gave them to me. He was very sincere about it and did not want to make a big deal at all in front of the cameras.
I got a baseball signed by a few players as well and have it in my room along with the batting gloves inside a case. I also have a signed jersey by some of the players that I wore on the field the day I went to the game. I plan on making a scrapbook with the hundreds of pictures my family and I took that day as a beautiful memory.
YY: The Yankees capped off the 2009 season with a World Series title. When the last out was made– the Shane Victorino groundout to Robinson Cano–like most Yankee fans you were probably very excited. Was it especially a sweet win for you, considering what you went through earlier in the year?
AE: It was for sure a sweet win for me and it was so great to see the excitement. Every bit of hard work they put in playing, was worth it.
I look back all the time and realize how much I have gone through and I truly believe the Yankees deserved every bit of that title with their hard work. Just like every bit of strength and fighting power I gave in to survive, was worth the gift of life I received. I continue to thank God for my precious donor who gave me a priceless gift.
YY: Now that you have had the successful heart surgey, what are you doing in terms of your future?
AE: I am in college right now. I took one semester of courses all online and I plan on continuing to do that until I feel it is time to attend the actual classrooms. I have to be careful because my immune system is suppressed. I love the online classes because it is convenient and if I have a visit to the hospital it won’t interfere with them.
To try and get my mind off what was by far the most embarrassing loss of the season, I figured I would have a little fun in light of everything that happened yesterday.
As most people probably noticed, former Yankee sparkplug Shelley Duncan is currently a member of the Cleveland Indians. Duncan, an on-and-off Yankee from mid-2007 through 2009, was a fan favorite; his silly antics and patented high-five were part of his personality and fans accepted him into the Yankee lifestyle.
His trademark high-five, by the way, once fractured Kim Jones’s hand. It was for real!
A strong majority of Yankee Universe (including myself) loved how Duncan fit in when he first made it to the majors. In fact, he smacked five home runs in his first 22 at-bats. His great numbers in the minors at first seemed to be translating to the majors very well.
Unfortunately he could not keep it up towards the beginning of 2008 and was demoted back down to Triple-A, only to be called up and sent down sporadically over the next two years. If you ask me, Duncan is in between; he is too good for the minors but not good enough for the majors.
That’s probably the worst spot to be in.
However, his numbers and his career do not make him any less awesome. At least not according to a website I came across awhile back.
A lot of people are familiar with the “Chuck Norris Facts” site and…well…I found one for Duncan. Whoever created this bizarre yet strangely amusing site obviously loves the Yankees and (from what it looks like) had a thing for Duncan.
On this site, there were over 450 of these “Shelley Duncan Facts” listed. I have rounded up my top 10 “facts” about the former Yankee. Enjoy!
10) Shelley Duncan can make Joe Buck sound interesting.
I’m not sure if this is possible. As cool as Duncan is (or at least whoever made this fact thinks he is) Buck can never sound interesting. He will always be a biased, terrible, boring announcer.
Are there any people in the world who actually like Buck and Tim McCarver?
9) Derek Jeter gets all the girls, because he tells them he knows Shelley Duncan.
OK, I don’t know who is right or wrong here. What I do know that Jeter is a legend when it comes to the ladies. He has been linked to more girls than any other baseball player probably in history.
Jessica Biel, Vanessa Minnillo, Jessica Alba, Vida Guerra, and…whether he marries Minka Kelly or not remains to be seen.
I have to give the “Yankee Clipper” Joe DiMaggio credit for being married to Marilyn Monroe–that’s impressive, and he was probably the envy of every man in America.
But Jeter does work when it comes to the ladies. The Yankee Captain is a player, plain and simple. And apparently so is Duncan, according to this fact.
8) Shelley Duncan is the reason Lance Bass went gay
Well…I don’t know about that, but…
In the wise words of Jerry Seinfeld, “Not that there’s anything wrong with that.”
7) Ever wondered why Hawaii is so far out in the Pacific? It used to be a small pineapple-producing island 20 miles off the coast of San Diego. During one visit, Shelley Duncan ate a bad pineapple…The rest, my friends, is history.
You know, I always wondered why Hawaii was out there. I learned something.
6) Shelley Duncan lost his virginity before his mom and dad.
.:BLANK, PUZZLED STARE:.
5) Bill Buckner missed the ball because he saw Shelley Duncan in the crowd.
4) Shelley Duncan can fix the Knicks.
Maybe he can. But if he can’t, LeBron James might be able to…Chris Bosh, too.
3) Shelley Duncan…that’s what she said!
2) Sonic the Hedgehog , The Flash, and Superman once challenged Shelley Duncan to a race. When Sonic, Flash and Superman tried to cheat, realizing Shelley was much more skilled and faster than them, Shelley high-fived them all, killing them instantly. Nobody -including Johnny Damon, Jose Reyes, Ichiro, or Shane Victorino – has since dared to challenge Shelley Duncan to a race.
I’m a little biased towards this one, because I submitted it. I know, it’s lame. It’s dumb. It makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. But that’s what makes it funny.
Just go with it…
1) Shelley Duncan can drown a fish.
Believe it or not, there’s a little bit of a back-story to this one.
Last year, I really liked this girl. I was trying to come up with silly ways to impress her, and I went to the Shelley Duncan site for help. I figured if I can do amazing things, she would like me more.
I came across this fact and proceeded to tell the girl that I can drown a fish. Go ahead and laugh at me; make fun of me all you want. But guess what? IT WORKED!
In fact, she took it a step further and told me she could drown two fish!
I told her I wanted proof of her ability to drown two fish. Believe it or not, she actually sent me pictures of her pretending to drown two fish! It’s…kind of hard to explain, but it was really funny! She did an excellent job with it! I gave her “cool points” for her remarkable effort.
We eventually got together for a little while, and maybe I should thank Shelley Duncan for that. His ridiculous fact got me a girl, or at least it helped me get a girl. I think she liked me for more than just saying I can drown a fish.
Click here for the definitive list of Shelley Duncan facts. I swear it can keep you entertained for awhile. And it definitely helped me take my mind off the Yankee loss yesterday.
Awful. Just awful.
But today’s a new day! Let’s get ’em, Yanks!
Luck: a force that brings good fortune or adversity. Yankee legend Lou Gehrig once claimed to be the luckiest man on the face of the earth. Yesterday afternoon, I felt I was the luckiest man on the face of the earth.
I was fortunate enough to spend the day with my friends and family at Yankee Stadium for the Bronx Bombers’ home opener against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Not only was it their home opener, it was their ring ceremony, held to commemorate their 2009 World Series Championship.
After a beautiful ceremony, the Yankees beat the Angels, 7-5.
But the day wasn’t just about RBIs, base hits, and runs scored. It wasn’t just about the Yankees receiving their championship rings. It went far beyond anything that anyone can really understand. Overall, it was a wonderful experience; one I will never forget.
A Meaningful Day
My cousin Thomas, who invited me and my other cousin Krystina to the game, could not have been more excited for Opening Day. He got the tickets and graciously invited us to this historic game. His father (my Uncle John) recently passed away. I know that Thomas would have loved nothing more than to share the day with his dad.
Since his dad could not be there, I find it so honorable that he wanted me there to share the day with him. I could not have felt better. The fact that he asked me to go with him nearly drove me to tears.
And it didn’t get any easier when we reached the ballpark.
Getting off the train, we noticed the old Yankee Stadium. The building is nearly torn down completely. It was an unbelievable sight to behold. I can remember so many great and meaningful memories for me in that Stadium, and my only thought was, “is it really right for them to just gut it and rip it down?”
I guess they had to do it, but it didn’t make me feel very good. I could tell Thomas was taken back by the whole thing; he was as overwhelmed as I was. The same building where Babe Ruth, Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, and countless other Yankee legends made history is now in shambles; it’s merely a skeleton of what used to be a beautiful ballpark.
Heartbreaking, to say the least.
When we got inside the new Stadium, it was madness. Everywhere you looked the words, “2009 World Series Champions” were visible. The Great Hall was buzzing with Yankee fans, all ready to watch the team accept their 27th World Title.
Thomas, Krystina, and I went down to the field level. There we met up with Thomas’s sister (another one of my cousins) Ashley, who went to the game with her friend Matthew. We took a picture together–in my mind, the best picture I took all day. I took a ridiculous amount of photos of the players, the ceremony, and the game.
But I would say the group shot we took together was the best. I would not be anywhere without my family and they mean so much to me. I was honored that they invited me to the game, and for that I cannot thank them enough.
Ashley and Matt went to their seats while Thomas, Krystina, and I stayed on the field level to watch the Angels take batting practice, as the Yanks took BP before the gates opened to the public. We were literally pressed directly up against the wall in right field. We had a perfect view of everything!
Thomas kept yelling for a ball. He wanted one more than anything. Former Yankee Bobby Abreu was practically right in front of us. He lobbed a couple loose baseballs into the stands, but not any that came near us. Two security guards however were standing near us and Thomas chatted with them, trying to coerce them into getting him a ball.
Whoever was in the Angels’ batting cage smoked one down the right field line. The ball ricocheted off the side of the wall and onto the grass.
“Can you get that for me?” Thomas politely asked.
“We are not allowed to go on the grass,” one of the security guards answered.
Not long after that, another ball was ripped down the right field line in foul territory, landing safely on the dirt. It was right in front of the guards.
“Please!” Thomas persisted. “Please get that for me!”
The guard smiled, bent over, picked up the ball, and placed it softly in Thomas’s glove.
I have never in my life seen a child happier. Thomas, with a grin as wide as the Grand Canyon, had gotten a foul ball in batting practice, a feat I never accomplished at a Major League game. He was ecstatic and I was overjoyed that he was able to get it.
I’m sure it will be something he’ll remember forever.
What I thought was significant about the day was the team the Yankees were playing. They played the Angels. And I have no doubt in my mind that Thomas’s dad, my Uncle John, was one of the Angels at the Stadium yesterday–but he was an Angel for the Yankees. It truly felt as though he was right there with us.
After batting practice wrapped, the ring ceremony festivities were set to begin. I watched from behind centerfield and everything looked wonderful. Michael Kay and John Sterling emceed the ceremony and the World Series trophy was even on display.
First the team paid homage to owner George Steinbrenner, who was in attendance for the days’ events. I have never heard a louder ovation for a non-player in my life. The crowd roared for him and rightfully so. Without Mr. Steinbrenner, there would be no Yankee team.
Then Whitey Ford and Yogi Berra came out to help hand out the rings. Manager Joe Girardi also helped distribute the rings and he congratulated each player as they accepted their prize. One by one, every Yankee from last year’s team was called out to get their ring.
Really the only players who were missing were Johnny Damon and Melky Cabrera. Jerry Hairston, Jr. (although no longer with the team) was in the ballpark to get his ring. As was Hideki Matsui, the MVP of the ’09 World Series who is now a member of the Angels.
They saved Matsui’s introduction for last, and he received a humungous, deafening ovation. I think every Yankee fan recognized Matsui’s hard work and dedication over the seven years he played in the Bronx. I know he will always be a Yankee in my heart.
When the ceremony was ready to conclude, the whole team ran in and showed Matsui a lot of love; the team got together one last time and embraced for a group hug. The hug almost brought a tear to my eye, because I know how close the 2009 team was.
I didn’t realize until I got home how they had tricked Matsui. Girardi handed him a bootleg ring and later during the Opening Day ceremony ran the real ring over to him. Matsui laughed and I could see his Angel teammates also teasing him for it.
A little playful humor now and then is relished by the best teams, I guess.
And speaking about the Opening Day ceremony: once again, overwhelming. They called the Angels out of their dugout and they all lined up along the third baseline. The Yankees lined up on the first baseline, and cadets from West Point stood in center field to unfurl the American flag. Not long after the anthem ended, two enormous jets flew over Yankee Stadium.
Those fighter jets were LOUD! When I tell you they were loud, they were LOUD! The ground literally shook as they flew over the new house. And once again, it was quite a sight to behold. My only word for it: “Amazing.”
After the anthem and beautiful aerial presentation, Bernie Williams, the great former center fielder, tossed out the honorable first pitch. Talk about an ovation! Williams received a rousing hand from us Yankee faithful, but it somewhat shocked us how he bounced the pitch. Being a former All-Star center fielder, you would think Williams would hit home plate! He missed, much to the surprise of the crowd. The gentleman standing next to me yelled, “Oh, come on Bernie! You gotta hit the glove!”
It’s Ok, Bernie. I still love you.
After the Yankees were finished warming up and all pre-game ceremonies were over, it was time to, as they say, play ball! Yankees vs. Angels.
The Yankees struck first in the bottom of the first. Designated hitter Nick Johnson blasted a solo home run to right field, a shot that (as I understand) landed right next to Bald Vinny–the legendary Bleacher Creature who starts the famous Yankee “roll call” at the beginning of each home game.
Unfortunately I was on line for food when this happened, but I heard the crowd roar and got into a spot just in time to see Johnson cross home plate. In any event it was the first of many home runs the Yankees will hit in their house in 2010.
As Andy Pettitte worked brilliantly through the first three innings, the Yankees held a 1-0 lead until the bottom of the frame. The Yankee captain, Derek Jeter, stepped up to the plate and crushed a solo home to right field, his first of the year.
It really is amazing how many games I have been to that have featured a home run by Jeter. It seems every game I get out to, he hits a home run. I can think of at least five games off the top of my head in which Jeter has homered. Maybe I bring some kind of luck to him, who knows.
In any event, 2-0 Yankees at the end of three innings of play.
One of the more special moments during the day was Matsui’s first at-bat. The former beloved Yankee received yet another rousing ovation from the fans while he stepped into the batter’s box. Pettitte respectfully tipped his cap and stepped off the mound and allowed his former teammate to soak up the moment.
Matsui removed his helmet and acknowledged the fans who once called him a hero. Unfortunately for the 2009 World Series MVP, the Yankees were not very kind to him in terms of his day at the plate. He was 0-for-5 on the day with a strikeout.
The Yankees tacked on three more runs before the end of the sixth inning. Jeter was at it again in the fourth, reaching on an infield single that scored Curtis Granderson. In the sixth, Alex Rodriguez reached on yet another infield single, which brought home Johnson and Nick Swisher.
5-0, all Yankees at the end of six innings. It was looking good for us.
That is, until Kendry Morales stepped up in the top of the eighth. The Angels’ first baseman smashed a long, solo home run into the second deck in right field, putting the Angels on the board, 5-1.
The Yankees got two runs back in the bottom of the eighth, both of them proving to be the difference in the game. Jorge Posada doubled to score Johnson and Granderson singled to score Robinson Cano, giving the Yankees a 7-1 edge.
Posada’s double put him ahead of Mantle on the all-time Yankee doubles list.
You would think with a 7-1 lead heading into the ninth inning everything would be safe and secure. Well, think again. Feeling that the game was practically over, my cousins and I watched the end of the game from the concourse on the first base side.
And we received a pleasant surprise followed by a not-so-pleasant surprise, followed by a happy ending.
Right before the ninth inning began, two gentleman sitting in the field box seats decided to leave. One of them tapped me on the shoulder and handed me his tickets.
“Here you go,” he said. “You guys can watch the end from the field level seats.”
“WOW!” I exclaimed. “Thank you very much!”
“Don’t mention it,” he replied.
How awesome is that?! You never really see that type of chivalry anymore. A man, not knowing who I was, just gave up his seats to me, a stranger. Granted, the game was almost over, it was still a very noble gesture and overall a kind act.
Who says New Yorkers are mean-spirited?
In any event my cousins and I, now sitting in comfortable, padded box seats, watched David Robertson surrender hit after walk after hit, eventually loading the bases. I still thought the Yankees were in great shape, even if they only gave up a run or two.
To our dismay, former Yankee Abreu stepped up and slaughtered a grand slam home run to left field, something he specialized in when he played for the Yankees. I will always like Abreu; in my mind he was the best Yankee right fielder since Paul O’Neill. But yesterday…I did not like him. He burned us pretty bad.
I mean, Abreu’s home run was a real shot. I’m talking way back into the left field seats.
Now with the score at 7-5 and a save situation in place, Girardi was prompted to bring in Mariano Rivera. The great Rivera struck Torii Hunter out swinging and then got his former teammate Matsui to pop out to end the game.
Ballgame over. Yankees win. THEEEEE Yankees win!
We stayed and watched the Yankees take congratulations and improve their record to 5-2.
We exited the ballpark and once again looked at the demolished old stadium. Thomas looked at it once more, and looking at it again, I could not help but think of all the games his father took us to. I think a part of us went down with that stadium.
But then we glanced back at the new stadium and thought about the days’ events. The Yankees had just won and we had just witnessed history; the first ring ceremony in the new Stadium, a batting practice foul ball, a great game, a seat upgrade from a gracious fan and a Yankee win.
And not only that, a day spent with my friends and family.
I could not have asked for anything better. It was just a day where nothing went wrong. I can truly say that I felt like the luckiest man on the face of the earth yesterday.
And Uncle John: I know you were there with us. We miss you.
Keep smiling down on us and the Yankees.
With one week and one day left of spring training baseball, the Yankees are starting to get into regular season form. Saturday afternoon the Bronx Bombers beat the Detroit Tigers in Lakeland by a score of 2-1.
Here’s what I made of it…
Coming into this game A.J. Burnett was 0-1 this spring, not exactly setting the Yankees on fire. I recently wrote a blog about Burnett, calling out his inconsistency and how everyone compared him to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde last season.
Today, he was “Dr. Jekyll-Burnett.”
The Yanks’ number two man tossed 91 pitches over 6 2/3 innings of one-run ball. He only gave up three hits, struck out two, and issued three walks. Not a bad day at the office for Burnett and it was a good sign, considering the Tigers played most of their regulars.
Manager Joe Girardi liked what he saw from Burnett today too; the skipper said he was “mixing his pitches, using the fastball more effectively, and was demonstrating better control than his last few starts.”
Could not have said it better myself. Burnett was also in a good rhythm with Jorge Posada, who was catching him this afternoon. Many people have made issues about the Burnett-Posada battery in the past, but if they work together as nicely as they did today there won’t be many problems.
Overall, Burnett looked great. A smooth and effortless delivery, a good fastball, a great breaking pitch, and everything was working for him. Let’s just hope he pitches like this for the better part of the upcoming season.
Burnett will have one more start this spring before April 6–his first regular season start in Boston vs. the Red Sox.
What was interesting about this game was the scoring. The Yankees scored two runs, both of which were brought on by former Tigers. The Tigers plated one run, which was scored by a former Yankee.
In the top of the first, Curtis Granderson knocked in Posada with a two-out RBI single. Of course Granderson played for the Tigers last season, as did Marcus Thames.
With the game tied at 1-1 in the top of the fourth, Thames took Tigers’ starter Nate Robertson deep to left for a long solo home run, a blast that gave the Yankees the lead they would not relinquish.
I think Thames needed that home run, considering the abysmal spring he is having. Heading into that at-bat, he was only averaging .114 at the plate. Yikes!
As for the Tigers, former Yank Johnny Damon scored in the bottom of the third on an RBI single off the bat of Magglio Ordonez. After Damon hit a two-out double Ordonez drove him in from second with a base hit to right field. I have to give credit to Randy Winn, who nearly made a spectacular outfield assist.
Damon just beat the throw to home plate, which was right on the money. A solid effort and a great throw by Winn, but the former Yankee was called safe at home.
It was just a strange day in terms of the scoring. Not many runs and a former player on each team lent a hand in each run. Crazy!
As announced on Thursday, Joba Chamberlain will begin the season in the bullpen. Phil Hughes won the fifth starting pitcher’s spot, much to the dismay of many people including Chamberlain.
A good friend of mine called me almost immediately after the Yankees made the decision. I answered my phone and he literally went off about how angry he was how Hughes was named the fifth starter over Chamberlain. His argument was that the Yanks wasted time with the “Joba Rules” and how they treated him last year.
Think about it: they put Chamberlain on six days rest and then had him go out and throw 4 1/3 innings in some instances. They put him through all of that just to make him a reliever again? My friend said,
“He may not have been Roy Halladay right off the bat, but Rome was not built in a day.”
Excellent point. Chamberlain is only 24 years old. If he was 34 years old and not performing at a high level as a starter, then I would say leave him in the bullpen.
I think many people forget what he did in July 25, 2008 against the Red Sox at Fenway. Chamberlain started the game and tossed seven shutout innings against the BoSox, beating the ace of the Red Sox staff, Josh Beckett. Not only did he pick up the win in that game, he only allowed three hits and fanned nine batters.
The capability and talent is there. He just needs a chance to put it to use.
Chamberlain said Hughes did a better job during spring training and earned the spot, but he also said he was disappointed. He has a right to feel that way. Everyone was expecting him to be the fifth guy and I can tell he wanted to be. But I think one thing has to be made clear:
Even though Hughes is starting the year in the rotation, it doesn’t mean Chamberlain won’t be there. If Hughes struggles (the way he has in the past as a starter) Chamberlain could very well be plugged into that spot and get some starts. Nothing is set in stone; it just means Hughes is starting the year in the rotation!
Maybe everything will work out fine. Perhaps Hughes will find his niche in the rotation while Chamberlain finds his in the ‘pen. Just as he has proven to be a dominant starter, Chamberlain can be just as deadly as a reliever.
After all, he did pitch a scoreless ninth inning today and pick up a save.
–The Tigers’ spring training field is named “Joker Marchant Stadium.” Detroit officially wins the award for silliest Stadium name. Ever.
–David Robertson took over for Burnett and got out of the sixth inning. The more I watch him, the more I like him. He is great!
–Chad Gaudin was released by the Yankees. He made seven starts for the Bronx Bombers last year and the Yanks were 7-0 in those games. I hope he finds a new team, he can really help a ball club the way he helped the Yankees.
–Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Nick Swisher, and Robinson Cano did not make the trip over to Lakeland today.
–Nick Johnson played first base this afternoon. I think it’s good he can play the field, but unfortunately he went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts at the plate. He did draw a walk though.
–As mentioned before, Randy Winn almost made a great outfield assist. Even though he missed it, he still did a great job in right field. He made some nice catches and even doubled up a runner at first after an awesome snag. I’ll give him a lot of credit–he won some battles with the sun and wind today!
–The Tigers have a minor leaguer named Michael Rockett. Deik Scram, Michael Rockett…Jeesh, the Tigers are chuck full of minor leaguers with funny names!
–Chan Ho Park’s nickname is “Chop.” Cool. Even cooler, he worked his way out of a 1st and 3rd, one-out jam in the eighth inning.
–Joel Zumaya of the Tigers struck out the side in the sixth inning. He whiffed Granderson, Winn, and Ramiro Pena. I am officially scared of him again. He has been practically a non-factor these past two seasons, but his fastball hit 99 mph on the speed gun and his curve ball was NASTY. I am not looking forward to facing him this year.
–During the telecast, Michael Kay and Tino Martinez had a discussion about the pies to the face after a walk-off win. Kay said the dynasty teams were “very conservative” and that Paul O’Neill (at first) did not like the pies after the walk-off wins.
Martinez however liked them and said the team did not look like they were having fun the last five-six years. “The pies loosened them up,” Martinez elegantly stated.
I have to side with favorite player during the dynasty (Martinez) and say he was right.
–Tomorrow afternoon the Yankees take on the Tigers yet again, only this time they will play in Tampa at George M. Steinbrenner Field.
In the first game of a split-squad doubleheader, the New York Yankees topped the Detroit Tigers 6-2 on Friday afternoon.
Overall it was a good win. The team looked about as solid as they can be, coming off the 6-4 win over Tampa Bay last night. The Bombers will play the Rays again tonight in game two of their twin bill.
A few players and plays stood out this afternoon. All I can say is the Yankees are looking better and better as Spring Training continues!
The Yankee ace wasn’t having a great spring coming into today’s start. In fact, his numbers were brutal. 0-1 with an 8.31 ERA was the line on Sabathia up until today, indicating a little rust, I suppose. He pitched so much last season and into the playoffs, so he needed that rest in the off-season. But as the old saying goes, “when you rest, you rust.”
Yet Sabathia looked anything but rusty today.
The big man tossed 5 1/3 innings, surrendered four hits, and was charged with two runs this afternoon. He walked only two and struck out eight Tigers, making some of Detroit’s best hitters look as silly as the Joker at a comedy show.
The breaking ball, the fastball, and the changeup were working perfectly for Sabathia today. I will admit I had some doubts in the first inning. He quickly gave up a run and I thought “here we go again.” But he settled in nicely and found a good rhythm with catcher Francisco Cervelli. They looked to be on the same page all afternoon.
After today, I feel a lot better about Sabathia. Not that I ever really felt bad about him, despite the shaky spring. He always finds a way to win and always comes up big when the Yankees need him to.
I said it once and I’ll say it again: I believe in CC Sabathia.
In the bottom of the third inning, Alex Rodriguez stepped into the box against Rick Porcello. The three-time MVP smacked a long, and I mean LONG, solo home run over the left-centerfield fence. As a matter of fact, the ball cleared the scoreboard and landed well beyond George M. Steinbrenner Field.
“That…was a BOMB!” It was all I could say.
Rodriguez went 2-for-3 today and he looks to be in top shape for this season. Last year he did not return to the lineup until May 8 because of the hip injury. The Yankees (and more notably Mark Teixeira) struggled in his absence.
2010 might be a different story, though. There are no injuries and he will be starting the season in regular form. I have a feeling he’ll have a typical “A-Rod season.” Look for about 35-40 home runs, over 100 RBIs, a batting average around .300, and probably 100 runs scored.
That is, unless, he stupefies us all like he did in 2007. That’s always appreciated, as well!
All I can say is “wow” to that homer he hit today. He absolutely crushed the ball and got very good wood on it. I shouldn’t even say “crushed.” Obliterated is probably the operative word. He said after the game he “lost track of it, but knew he hit it a long ways.”
That you did, A-Rod. That you did.
Last night vs. Tampa Bay, the Yankee captain looked to have tweaked his hand a little bit. He was grimacing as he was taking warm-ups, but stayed in the game. He also said nothing was bothering him (as usual) and he started today.
Not only did he start today, but he had a good game.
Jeter went 1-for-3 with two RBIs and a walk. The captain knocked in both runs on a single in the bottom of the second, which put the Yankees ahead, 3-1. His hitting is exactly what we all expect at this point. Jeter’s been through Spring Training so many times, I’m sure he is used to it by now.
Along with his hitting, his defense looks great, too. Whoever said his range has gone down really needs to get their eyes checked. This spring, Jeter has been moving around just as well as he has his whole career.
It’s just good to know he did not hurt his hand last night and he had a good day today.
The Yankees’ closer needed just 10 pitches to retire the Tigers in the seventh inning today. Mariano Rivera’s line for the day: no runs, no hits, no errors, no men left on base…one strikeout.
It never gets old seeing that.
Like the rest of the veterans, Rivera also looks to be in top form. He always is, it’s nothing new for him. I noticed that his velocity was down in the low-mid 80s at first, but he eventually made it up to the 90s toward the end of the inning.
I think velocity is not something that really matters when it comes to Rivera’s pitching. So many hitters have already said, “We all know the cutter is coming–yet no one can ever hit it.” My favorite quote was by Mike Sweeney, who once said,
“People always ask why you can’t hit Mo’s cutter when you know it’s coming. Well, you know what’s going to happen in a horror movie, but it still gets you.”
Best quote about the cutter. Ever.
I think people also need to realize, it’s not an easy pitch to hit. The cutter runs inside on left-handed hitters and tails away from righties. One player once remarked, “At first you think the ball is outside, and then it comes right in toward your hands.” Honestly, it’s probably the nastiest pitch there is.
Last year Rivera had 44 saves in 46 save opportunities with a 1.76 ERA. With the way he’s been pitching for the last 15 years or so, he might duplicate that in 2010. Knowing him, I would not doubt it. He said he will have about five more outings this spring and he is set to pitch again on Sunday.
–Nick Johnson worked an 11 pitch at-bat in the fourth inning, ending in a walk. I expect more of this from him this year. It’s good to have a patient hitter in the lineup.
–Royce Ring pitched yet another scoreless inning. I think a roster spot could be in his future. I like him!
–In the 6-4 win over Tampa last night, Chan Ho Park tossed his first inning this spring. No runs, no hits, no walks, and a strikeout, along with making a nice bare-handed play for an out. Good stuff, let’s see if he can keep it up!
–In addition to Park’s good outing, Colin Curtis hit another three-run home run in last night’s win. I like this kid. I know he won’t make the team coming right out of the gate, but Curtis may make a case for a call-up this year, even if it’s at the end in September. He has a great left-handed swing, tailor-made for Yankee Stadium. I hope we see more of him, he’s got some pop!
–Joe Girardi stated that he hopes to have a decision on the fifth starting pitcher by March 25 or 26. If you ask me…anyone but Joba Chamberlain at this point. I have no clue who I would choose for that spot at the moment.
–Johnny Damon did not make the trip to GMS Field today. We didn’t see our old friend.
–We did however see Austin Jackson (we barely knew ye) and Phil Coke today. I have to ask…WHAT did Phil Coke do to himself? He looks like a hippie straight out of the 1970s! He has long hair and a mustache and looks…not right. Cut your hair and shave, Cokey!
–Coke did however have a good outing, as he struck Alex Rodriguez out swinging and then proceeded to retire Robinson Cano and Marcus Thames in order.
–The Tigers played one of their AA minor leaguers by the name of Deik Scram. He is a centerfielder. Nice name! Kind of reminds me of Stubby Clapp.
Francisco Cervelli played today. As we all know, he has suffered three concussions and needs to wear a somewhat large, protective helmet. The YES Network made a reference to Gazoo, an imaginary cartoon character who always talked to Fred Flintstone.
I have to admit, Cervelli’s helmet does resemble Gazoo’s…
I had heard awhile back (through the hot stove grape vine) that the only way Johnny Damon would be able to return to the Yankees would be if he crawled back on his hands and knees and begged. Obviously he did not proceed to do that and now he is officially gone and not coming back.
Yesterday Damon and the Detroit Tigers cut a one year, $8 million deal.
I have to say, this was not completely his fault. For the most part, I blame this move on his agent Scott Boras. According to reports, the Yankees had attempted to negotiate with the left fielder several times with talks eventually stalling out before a deal was reached.
Boras has been known to do these types of things to players in the past. If you remember back to the end of the 2007 season, Alex Rodriguez had an opt-out clause in his contract. Rodriguez, also represented by Boras, chose to opt-out of his contract at the most inopportune time imaginable: in the middle of the World Series.
The Yankees had tried to negotiate with Rodriguez prior to the end of 2007 season, but no deal was made. Rodriguez told the Yanks that he was not interested in working out a new deal in the middle of the season. The Yankees responded by basically telling Rodriguez, “if you opt-out now, we are not chasing after you.”
Unlike Damon, Rodriguez became a free agent and reached out to the Yankees. The team and Rodriguez had a meeting and eventually worked out a new deal. Along with the new contract, Rodriguez distanced himself from Boras because of the ugly press he received for the opt-out move.
Good move, A-Rod. Unfortunately Damon was not as smart. He received ugly press and he allowed Boras to make a deal for him/control his destiny.
I’ll admit, I liked Damon and I will miss him. He was a hard worker, played the game the right way, and really did not make any excuses. The whole time he was in New York, I don’t think I ever heard him make an excuse for a bad game or a failure.
On top of that, he enjoyed many moments of success as a Yankee. Here are five:
5) June 7, 2008— A six hit day
The Yankees played the Royals on a hot Saturday afternoon–should have been an easy win by any Yankee fan’s standards. But it looked like a lost cause at the end of the third inning when Kansas City was winning 5-1.
Never underestimate your opponent, but also never underestimate the Yankee left fielder.
Damon put together a career day at the plate, going 6-for-6 with four RBIs and a run scored as the Yankees battled back. He even drove in the winning run on a walk-off ground rule double in the bottom of the ninth.
The Yankees won the slugfest, 12-11.
The ground-rule double was Damon’s first walk-off hit as a member of the Yankees, and he became the first Yankee since Myril Hoag to have six hits in a game. (Hoag accomplished the feat in 1934).
I would say Damon showed how valuable he can be on that day.
4) Boston Massacre, 2006
It was a really fun weekend to be a Yankee fan.
Heading into a five-game weekend series in Boston on Aug. 18, the American League title was basically up for grabs. We knew that whichever team won this series was the favorite to win the East.
Damon had been blasted when he returned to Boston earlier that season on May 1. Red Sox fans even held up a sign in center field that read “JUDAS DAMON” (the ‘N’ in his last name of course being the interlocking ‘NY’)
But never one to let things bother him, Damon kept his focus on the game. In the first three games of the five game series, he hit two homers, scored eight runs, and drove in eight runs.
Talk about letting your former team know what they are missing. And if you are wondering, the Yankees swept the Red Sox that weekend and went on to win the AL East. The Red Sox did not make the playoffs in ’06.
They had the Yankees to thank for that.
3) Walk-off Against Minnesota
Many people say the series the Yankees played against the Twins in May of last year was the turning point of their Championship season.
Melky Cabrera hit a walk-off single on May 15, Alex Rodriguez smacked a walk-off homer on May 16, and on May 17 it was Damon’s turn to ignite the team.
With two hits already under his belt on the day and the game knotted at two in the bottom of the tenth, Damon crushed a long, solo home run into the right field seats to win the game for the Yankees.
Damon’s walk-off blast marked the first time since 1972 the Yankees won three games in a row in their final at-bat. After the win, Damon proudly proclaimed faith in the team and the Yankees’ ability to win tough games.
He also received a pie in the face from A.J. Burnett, a tradition that occurred after every walk-off Yankee win in 2009.
2) Oct. 7, 2007–Game 3 of the ALDS
Down two games to none and facing elimination in Game Three, “The Boss” George Steinbrenner had issued an edict to then-manager Joe Torre: “Beat Cleveland or you are gone.”
Roger Clemens started the game and quickly let the Yankees fall into a hole. Clemens was forced to an early exit because of a strained hamstring and rookie Phil Hughes took over on the mound. The youngster was able to toss 3 2/3 innings of scoreless baseball, but the Yankees were still down 3-1 by the fifth inning.
Damon then came up to bat with two runners on base and took Indians’ starter Jake Westbrook deep to put the Yankees up 4-3. I had never breathed such a sigh of relief in my life. Damon had practically single-handedly saved Torre’s life as Yankee manager with one swing of the bat.
The Yanks were able to tack on four more runs and win the game by a count of 8-4. Unfortunately the next night in Game Four they were not as lucky and lost 6-4 in Torre’s last game as Yankee skipper.
Yet I cannot forget Damon’s effort in Game Three. He once again showed credibility in the playoffs and came through in the clutch. We Yankees fans had seen how capable he was in the 2004 playoffs and I for one was happy to see it translate in ’07.
In humility, Damon had five words to say after the game:
“We won it for Joe.”
1) Man of Steal: Game Four, 2009 World Series
It was the most epic base-running play I have ever seen in a World Series game.
After giving a warrior-like effort at the plate (a nine-pitch at-bat) and tapping a two-out single off the end of his bat into left field, Damon stood on first base in the ninth inning of a 4-4 game. The Philadelphia Phillies’ infield was playing the over-shift with Mark Teixeira batting from the left side of the plate.
With third baseman Pedro Feliz playing where the shortstop normally would, no one was covering third base. Damon took off like a shot and hustled to second base, the throw down to second being late. In a heads-up move, Damon right away noticed no one covering the bag and bolted to third, basically uncontested, and made it there safely.
You cannot coach that. It was just self-awareness. Damon was awarded with two steals.
Teixeira got hit with a pitch, setting up Alex Rodriguez who knocked in the go-ahead run with a double to left field. The Yankees tacked on two more runs after Rodriguez’s double and went on to win 7-4.
Damon kept the team alive with his valiant effort with two outs in the inning and his great instinct on the base path. I have never seen a player keep his wits about him in such a pressure-laden situation. He maintained his bearings and made a terrific play.
I still feel if Damon had made an out, the Yanks would have lost Game Four.
On behalf of Yankee fans everywhere, THANK YOU Johnny Damon!
You afforded us some wonderful memories and like Hideki Matsui, we will truly miss you. It’s unfortunate how your tenure in New York ended, but at least you helped bring the city another title.
Have fun in Detroit with Austin Jackson.
P.S. We are sorry Scott Boras ruined it for you. Be smart and dump him. Please.
What’s up Yankee fans?
The date is February 15, 2010.
As for news around the sports world, the NFL Super Bowl is over. The great Peyton Manning fell to Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints in what was (in my opinion) the best Super Bowl game since the New York Giants upset the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII.
The winter Olympics are in full swing in Vancouver and at press time the U.S.A. has claimed six medals.
The NBA is at their All-Star point and Nate Robinson of the New York Knicks became the only player in history to win the Slam Dunk Contest three times.
And last but never-the-least, MLB pitchers and catchers report to camp this week. We now know that baseball is almost back. Almost back, but we’re not quite there yet.
The Yankees obviously made a number of moves in the off season, bidding farewell to players like Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui, Melky Cabrera, and Chien-Ming Wang.
But they welcomed in new (and old) players like Curtis Granderson, Randy Winn, Javier Vazquez, and Nick Johnson.
Some of these moves haven’t been very popular among Yankee fans, but it remains to be seen how these players will perform. The best time to find out how well each player might do in the season is obviously in spring training.
With that being said, here are my five players to keep an eye on in March:
5) Javier Vazquez
At first, I was completely against the Javier Vazquez deal and part of me still is. I never liked him during his first stint with the Yankees in 2004. The only lasting image I have of him was that meatball he served up that Johnny Damon clobbered for a grand slam in the 2004 ALCS–a bomb that solidified the Yankees’ Game Seven collapse.
But I suppose I’ll give him a second chance as the number four starter in 2010.
Everyone keeps talking about how Vazquez had a very low ERA these past few seasons, so who knows. He may surprise us. After all, I thought Hideki Matsui was going to have a horrible season in 2009. He went on to win the World Series MVP.
I have decided to give Vazquez until July 15–if he has decent numbers then, I’ll approve of the trade. But if he is basically hanging on by a thread with an inflated ERA and a record of .500, then I’ll stand by my initial thought: what are the Yankees thinking?!
I realize the Vazquez trade was a panic move to counter the Red Sox signing John Lackey. But the Yanks could have figured out another way to get a pitcher without having to give up a promising outfielder (Cabrera) for a one-year rental (Vazquez).
We’ll see how he does. But without question, he’ll be under the microscope in Tampa.
4) Jesus Montero
I have heard a lot of great things about this kid. I get the feeling he’ll one day be a star, but he’s just too young right now. Nonetheless, non-roster invitee Jesus Montero will be a player to watch this spring.
At 20 years old, Montero has been named the Yanks’ best prospect and the fifth best player by Baseball America. In his 2008 minor league season with the Charleston River Dogs, Montero batted .326 with 17 homers and 87 RBIs. He only stole two bases, but hey…he’s a catcher, we cannot expect a ton of steals from him.
The highest level he’s played at is AA Trenton Thunder, but mark my words; he’ll probably make it to the AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees in 2010.
With Jose Molina leaving the Yankees, it’ll most likely be Francisco Cervelli backing up Jorge Posada. So in all likelihood, we won’t see Montero in the show this year. In 2011, he’ll more than likely be on the Major League squad.
But Montero will undoubtedly be on the field this spring. This is his chance to show Yankee Universe what he’s made of and for us to get a feel for what he is about.
3) Brett Gardner
Brett Gardner has given the Yankees something they haven’t had in recent times–speed. And I’m not talking about just a decent pair of wheels. I’m talking the Flash/Sonic the Hedgehog type horse power here.
I mean, if he sprinted on the highway, he’d probably get a speeding ticket.
Gardner has also offered a great deal of defense in the outfield. With the departure of Melky Cabrera, the Yankees are obviously putting a lot of stock in him. Gardner can run and he can play some unbelievable defense. But he needs to get on base and become a better offensive player.
In 2009, Gardner had 67 hits in 248 at-bats, which translates to a .270 average–not too shabby. He drew 26 walks and stole 26 bases, which again, are decent stats.
But centerfield is a position that requires power; you need to have some pop coming from that spot on the field. Gardner only hit three home runs last year, two of which left the park (and yes, it was pretty sweet watching that inside-the-park home run on May 15…it was even sweeter because I saw it in-person!)
This spring, the Yankees will be trying out a number of different outfielders. There’s even talk that if Gardner is good enough, recent acquisition Curtis Granderson might play left field and Gardner will man center.
Well, that scenario remains to be seen, but in any event, Gardner has to take his game up to the next level. We’ll see how he responds next month.
2) Robinson Cano
Boy has this young man come a long way. I can remember the day he was called up to the big leagues in 2005 and how nervous he looked. He would make frequent errors and he looked so uneasy at the plate.
But Robinson Cano worked his game up to a Major League level, finishing in the top three in the 2006 batting title race. He was even compared to the incomparable Rod Carew. And from there, the rest is basically history. In my opinion, he’s unlike any other second baseman in the American League–and that’s a good thing.
He plays defense so well, gliding across the infield and making spectacular plays. I still believe he should have won a Gold Glove Award this past year. His hitting has certainly improved, as well. In 2009 he set a career-high in home runs with 25 and averaged .320 at the dish.
I have to say, of the younger players who are currently on the Yankees, Cano is my favorite. You can mention Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, and all the legendary players of the so-called “core four,” but (for me) Cano has been the most exciting Yankee these past couple of seasons.
But some philosophize that Cano only performed so well for so long because of the presence of his best friend Melky Cabrera. The two became bosom buddies in 2007 and since then, both have played very well in each other’s friendship.
But Cabrera is now an Atlanta Brave and Cano is on his own.
I am anxious to see how Cano is going to perform in the absence of his best friend. I still feel he can play the same way he has these last few years. However, the only minor concern I have is how Cano played in 2008 without Cabrera; when his buddy was sent down to the minors because of a nasty slump, Cano struggled a little bit and fell into a funk of his own.
Hopefully nothing like that will happen to him this upcoming year. But if Cano gets off to a slow start and cannot find his rhythm, I might have to side with those philosophers.
1) Joba Chamberlain
It’s no secret that Joba Chamberlain had a rough 2009. It started back when he was arrested for a DUI after the 2008 campaign. Then he was put back on the “Joba Rules,” only being allowed to toss a certain amount of innings according to the Yankees’ discretion.
He had some forgetful starts and some brilliant starts in ’09, posting a record of 9-6 with a 4.75 ERA. If that wasn’t enough, the 24 year-old flamethrower was sent to the bullpen for the playoffs and World Series as the Bronx Bombers chose to go with a three-man rotation. In relief, he posted an ERA of 2.84 and was 1-0 with one save and seven strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings pitched.
Not too bad, if you ask me. Chamberlain seems to excel when he knows his role.
There’s a lot of speculation on which pitcher will land the fifth spot in the starting rotation. Chamberlain seems to be the logical choice, unless they either opt to pull Phil Hughes from his spot in the bullpen or allow Sergio Mitre or Chad Gaudin the opportunity.
It all depends on who is performing at the highest level in spring training. If we see Chamberlain in a dominant form next month, it could be him. But if he is going to be that fifth pitcher, the Yankees NEED to take him off the “Joba Rules.”
Chamberlain will have his growing pains, all young players do. But if they do not take the leash off, the only thing he’ll ever be is a caged animal.
I understand that the Yankees are not trying to wreck his arm because it’s happened to too many young pitchers (Francisco Liriano, Edinson Volquez…etc.) But the Yanks should not tell him exactly how many innings they want him to throw. I think that can upset the balance of his psyche.
So who will be that fifth starter? We’ll know when we see what they all bring to Tampa.
This week has been pretty rough for me (please don’t ask, I’m just glad it’s basically over!) so I haven’t been sleeping well these past few nights.
Anyway I was up around 1:30 this morning and I just happened to turn on the Food Network. The show Ace of Cakes was on, a reality show that centers on the work at Chef Duff Goldman’s custom cake shop. I don’t know much about the show because I don’t watch it on a regular basis, but they were making something so amazing.
A cake made to look like the new Yankee Stadium. I had to watch this.
It was amazing how Goldman and his partners, Geof Manthorn and Mary Smith, were able to build this thing; they did such an awesome job of crafting the cake to look like Yankee Stadium.
It was just so fascinating how they molded the dough to make it look like the grandstands and how they iced the cake to give it the likeness of the field. They even made a mini Monument Park behind the centerfield wall, capturing basically every facet of the new ballpark in the Bronx.
I thought to myself, “These cake-makers are extremely good at what they do, great in fact. It is such an admirable talent that they have and it’s incredible that they are able to do this.”
I then thought, “If I were able to make cakes like this, I could impress so many people!” They certainly impressed me, that’s for sure.
Then my admiration for their cake turned to sheer, unadulterated jealousy when I saw that Goldman, Manthorn, and Smith were privileged enough to go to the Stadium and show off their cake to the Yankee faithful on May 1.
They were originally going to bring the cake out onto the field before the game began, but rain prevented that. We did have too many problems with the weather this past year, which is unfortunate. Instead they put the cake down in the press conference room and video taped it to show on the diamond vision screen before first pitch.
Now here’s where I got extremely jealous.
Yogi Berra came into the press conference room to see the cake. As he marveled over the work of art, Goldman, Manthorn, and Smith got to talk to Berra and take pictures with him. Then CC Sabathia and Johnny Damon each walked in to see the cake, and they were also left in amazement at its brilliance.
Then the captain himself, Derek Jeter, came in to see the cake. Like Berra, Sabathia, and Damon, he too was impressed with the cake and told them what a wonderful job they did in making it.
Jeter signed a ball for Smith; she was so overjoyed at meeting Jeter she said, “I can die happy now.” I would give my life to just have a five minute conversation with Jeter, let alone leave him in awe of something I helped work on. She is a very lucky lady.
The three cake-makers then got to go out onto the field while their cake was shown on the diamond vision screen. They were given a rousing ovation from the capacity crowd, and it was well-deserved. For making a cake that good, they earned a standing O.
The Yankees went on to win that game against the Angels 10-9 on a walk-off single by Jorge Posada. So not only did they get to make this beautiful cake, they got to go to the Stadium, meet three Yankees, a Hall of Fame catcher, get their autographs, take pictures with them, step out onto the field before the game…and the Yankees won the game.
Talk about making off like a few bandits, wouldn’t you agree?
I have to say it was just one of the more fascinating things I have seen in awhile. For a small group of people to make such an amazing work of art, it was inspiring. They make it look so easy, even though I’m sure it’s probably not.
But they did a fantastic job with it. To them, I’m sure it’s just a piece of cake.
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.