As far back as I can remember I have always loved the New York Yankees. But in the fall of 1996, a new form of sports (or sports entertainment, I should say) piqued my interest.
November 17, 1996 is when I watched my first World Wrestling Federation Pay Per View, a match called “Survivor Series.” The event took place at the world’s most famous arena, Madison Square Garden in New York City, some eight or nine miles away from Yankee Stadium.
MSG is a venue the WWE frequents and if you talk to any wrestling fan, they will agree that The Garden is to the WWE what Yankee Stadium is to the Bronx Bombers.
As a 9 year-old it was a crazy experience. I watched in awe as wrestlers like The Undertaker, Mankind, Bret Hart, The British Bulldog, Rocky Maivia (who later became The Rock and is now in the movies known by his real name Dwayne Johnson) and Shawn Michaels battled it out in the squared circle for glory, honor, and respect.
Ever since then, I have found wrestling and Yankee baseball to be two of my greatest interests; two sports that have kept me involved for a long period of time. In recent times, it’s been easy to make connections to the world of pro-wrestling and the Yankees.
Some Yankee players have openly admitted that not only do they watch wrestling, but they are fans of the WWE. In the WWE, the wrestlers have oftentimes referenced the Yankees–in both good ways and bad–in order to generate a reaction from the live audiences.
What some people do not understand is that pro wrestling, although considered by me and many others to be a real sport, is what is commonly known as “sports entertainment.” While there is a sheer amount of athleticism that goes on in each and every match, the storylines and a large majority of what happens on the TV shows (a la Monday Night Raw and Friday Night Smackdown) is scripted.
In laymen’s terms, it’s a soap opera with body slams. Yet wrestlers still get injured during matches and they put their bodies on the line to satisfy the crowds, which is why, to me, pro wrestling is in fact a real sport. People can say whatever they want to about wrestling being “fake” but as Bret “The Hitman” Hart once said,
“Wrestling is far more real than people think.”
As it relates to the Yankees, there have been a few moments that stand out to me which connected the WWE and the Yankees. One instance was January 28, 2008. WWE was at The Garden for their annual Royal Rumble Pay Per View.
Santino Marella, a comedic character who is known more for his outlandish demeanor rather than his in-ring ability, came out to address the New York crowd. Being a heel, wrestling’s terms for a bad-guy (or a wrestler disliked by the crowd), Marella proceeded to put down my favorite team.
“The Yankees,” he said. “Chokers! Help, it’s a mosquito! I am going to blow the playoffs!”
Of course he was making reference to the infamous 2007 postseason- Joba Chamberlain “Bug Game.” Watching the PPV at a friend’s house, Marella’s remarks got me really angry; especially since the Boston Red Sox went on to win the World Series that year. I even remember rising up out of my seat and walking towards the TV set because he had hit a raw nerve of mine, as if I could do anything about it.
Over a year later, Marella (upon becoming a baby face, or a wrestling good guy) wore a Yankee jersey when the WWE returned to MSG for a show.
And that’s the beauty of wrestling sometimes–that it commands emotion. A wrestler can say things that just want to make you reach through the television set and strangle them, but at the same time, you love what they are doing.
Another great Yankee-WWE moment was back in either late 1999 or early 2000. Two wrestlers known as Edge and Christian (who like Marella were also heels) were the tag team champions. The WWE was in Atlanta for their Monday night television program, Raw.
The tag champs went out to the ring and did what they liked to call their “Five Second Pose,” A.K.A. they stood in the ring, told everyone in the audience to get their cameras out for a photo-op, and they mocked the sports teams of whatever city they were in at the time. The Braves were coming off their 1999 World Series loss to the Yankees and had also been beaten by the Yanks in the 1996 fall classic.
Edge said to the capacity crowd, “The Atlanta Braves are known for one thing–being the New York Yankees’ personal b*****s.”
Christian then put on a Braves jersey, while Edge sported the Yankee pinstripes. Christian got down on the canvas of the ring, hugging Edge’s ankles while Edge stood proudly with an evil smile on his face and gave a thumbs-up.
The Atlanta faithful responded with a boisterous chorus of boos.
As a Yankee fan, yes, it was hilarious and unbelievably entertaining. But I know that every Braves fan in attendance that night was furious; I believe they all felt the same way I did when Marella put down the Yankees, and more likely than not wanted Edge and Christian’s blood.
Again, wrestlers have the ability to command emotion. They can make you feel happy or so mad you want to beat them up.
Although the WWE wrestlers are known for making references to the Yankees, it works both ways. Numerous Yankees these past few years have admitted their admiration of wrestling.
Johnny Damon, a Yankee of four years, guest hosted Monday Night Raw in December following the Yankees’ 2009 World Series Championship. Damon, although an excellent baseball player, was not the best host for the show. I noticed throughout Damon’s tenure with the Yankees that he stuttered a lot during his postgame interviews; he never really gave the best sound bites for the media.
His stuttering, and in a lot of ways bad acting skills, did not come off looking any good on Monday Night Raw. I can remember saying one thing to myself after the show ended that night:
“Stick to baseball, Johnny. Stick to baseball.”
Wrestling has evolved over the years and has gone through a number of huge changes. These days the WWE’s most popular superstar is a man by the name of John Cena, who has been in movies, has guest starred on TV shows, and has done a lot of charity work for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Basically Cena is the WWE’s top man and its hottest commodity.
In February of 2009, Cena joined Derek Jeter, Tiger Woods (obviously before the controversy), Reggie Bush of the New Orleans Saints, and Denny Hamlin of NASCAR to help launch a new razor–the Gillette Fusion Gamer.
WWE interviewed Jeter and he said he told Cena that he needs to find the time and get out to a WWE show. It was funny to me, simply because I cannot picture in my mind Jeter, the classy captain of the New York Yankees, sitting ringside in an arena alongside a bunch of howling wrestling fanatics.
However, I would love to see it happen. As a person who has attended countless WWE live events, it is quite an experience. I highly recommend going to a WWE show, so I do hope Jeter can eventually “get out to one.”I guarantee he will have fun.
In 2009, the Yankees brought the spirit of WWE to their clubhouse. Pitcher A.J. Burnett’s son gave Damon a replica WWE Championship title belt to keep in his locker. From there on out, the Yankees awarded the belt to whoever was the hero of the game.
For example, Damon hit a walk-off home run on May 17, 2009 vs. the Minnesota Twins. After the game, the team declared him the champion and he got to hold the belt until the next hero was named.
WWE caught wind of this, and as it turned out, they rewarded the Yankees for it. CC Sabathia is good friends with WWE Hall of Famer, Jerry “The King” Lawler, stemming back to his days as a member of the Cleveland Indians–Lawler’s number one favorite team.
According to reports in June 2009, Lawler sent Sabathia an upgraded version of the WWE title. The report also mentioned that instead of the WWE logo, the belt featured the interlocking NY to fit the Yankees.
From what I read, the Yankees eventually signed their original WWE belt and auctioned it off, with the proceeds going to charity. Knowing the WWE and the amount of charity work they undertake on a yearly basis, they were probably very happy with the actions of the Yankees regarding the belt.
To me, wrestling will always be a wonderful art form. Good guys, bad guys, drama, athleticism, high-risk action, exhilaration, and laying it all on the line–the WWE has everything.
Other than football, I can’t think of any other sport that interests me more in the baseball off-season than wrestling. And when the WWE and the Yankees collide, as they have in the past, it is the best feeling in the world for me; it is two of the greatest sports in the world coming together.
And it is my hope that the Yankees and the WWE maintain a great relationship in the future. Perhaps Wrestlemania, WWE’s version of the World Series, could be held at Yankee Stadium.
Talk about a dream come true.
Happy New Year to all!
I apologize for not blogging in quite awhile. I have been busy with work and the holidays set me back, so I haven’t really had a chance to do a lot of Yankee Yapping.
Since my last blog entry, Cliff Lee signed with the Philadelphia Phillies, going back to the city of brotherly love for his second tour of duty. Am I upset the Yankees didn’t land him?
Yes, but only because he was really their only option. Andy Pettitte is expected to retire any day now and looking at things objectively, the Yankees have about two and a half pitchers in their rotation: CC Sabathia, Phil Hughes, and A.J. Burnett, who counts as a half a pitcher.
I checked out the free agent starters on the open market. There’s not much to look at, unless you count Carl Pavano and Ted Lilly as top-notch pitchers–both of whom have already faltered in pinstripes in the past.
Bottom line: the Yankee rotation needs help. And soon. The bullpen? Well…
Pedro Feliciano is coming across town from the Mets. Who knows how he will do, but he better pitch well. Kerry Wood is headed back to the Chicago Cubs, which upset me. He was probably the best part of our bullpen towards the end of last season, outside of Mariano Rivera.
Russell Martin came over from Joe Torre’s Dodgers, and hopefully he will exhibit better skills behind the plate (at least in terms of throwing out runners) than Jorge Posada, who has already been named the 2011 designated hitter.
Posada lost his starting catcher job. Sad, because more likely than not, this is his last year as a Yankee.
Reportedly, the Yankees were talking to Johnny Damon about a possible return. I hope he does come back because I have always liked him. It was a mistake to lose him to Detroit in the first place and I hope a deal can be reached. He would definitely improve the lineup, because everywhere he goes, the team gets better.
I really don’t know what to expect for 2011. I know the Red Sox have certainly improved, adding Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, and Bobby Jenks–joining the already dynamic group of players the Red Sox have, like David Ortiz (who can still hit for power) Dustin Pedroia (pesky little punk) Kevin Youkilis (annoying, strong hitter) and J.D. Drew (who can’t stay healthy with any team but Boston).
Buster Olney already compared the 2011 Red Sox to the Yankee Dynasty teams of the late 1990s.
As much as that scares me, it doesn’t make sense. They haven’t played a game yet. Who knows what kind of team chemistry the BoSox will showcase, and if they will click or stay healthy, or even pitch effectively. I mean, they haven’t even played a game yet.
On paper, they are the best team in the American League. But as Derek Jeter always says, “On paper doesn’t win you ballgames.”
Still, Boston scares me. Their off-season reminds me of what they did prior to 2007 and they went on to win the World Series that year. They missed the playoffs in 2006 and came storming back with a great off-season and a Championship year to follow.
I get the feeling they can do that again, as much as I hate to admit it. Boston is stacked.
But enough about that. Now that I have outlined some of the dreadful thoughts for this upcoming season, and in the spirit of the New Year, I’ll review the top 10 Yankee moments/plays of 2010.
10) CC Sabathia and Phil Hughes Flirt with No-Hitters
2010 was definitely the year of the pitcher. Perfect games and no-hitters were thrown by the likes of Roy Halladay, Ubaldo Jimenez, Dallas Braden, Matt Garza, Edwin Jackson…and almost by Armando Galarraga, but we all know what happened there.
On April 10, CC Sabathia took a no-hitter into the eighth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays. Through 7 2/3 innings, Sabathia shut down the Rays’ potent lineup until Kelly Shoppach lined a sharp single into left field to break it up.
So close. But the Yankees won 10-0 and Sabathia picked up his first win of the year–his first of 21 wins.
Fast forward to 11 days later in Oakland and Phil Hughes on the hill.
The Yankees played the Athletics on April 21, and Hughes nearly tossed a no-no of his own. The 23 year-old righty stud pitched 7 1/3 innings before giving up a come-backer to Eric Chavez–a hit that caromed off Hughes himself. He ended the night with 10 strikeouts, a career-high for him. He only walked two batters.
Although he did not get the no-hitter, the Yankees once again prevailed, beating Oakland 3-1.
9) Opening Day at Yankee Stadium
I feel especially biased towards this day, simply because I was there to witness it.
On April 13 the Yankees celebrated their 27th Championship with a ring ceremony and a game vs. the Los Angeles Angels. It was a glorious day and it meant a lot to me, spending it with my friends and family.
My cousin Thomas got a batting practice ball, the Yankees got their 2009 World Series rings, and I got a whole bunch of memories that will last for the rest of my life.
The Yankees beat the Angels, 7-5.
8) Comeback vs. Boston
May 17 was a memorable night for all Yankee fans.
Down 9-7 in the bottom of the ninth, Alex Rodriguez clobbered a game-tying home run off Yankee pariah/ Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon.
Marcus Thames came up later in the frame and crushed a walk-off home run deep into the left field seats to end the game. Yankees 11, Red Sox 9.
Papelbon walks off in shame, Thames walks off the hero. And the Yankee fans go home with smiles on their faces.
7) Grand Ol’ Days
The Yankees smacked 10 grand slams this season, more bases-loaded home runs in one season than I can ever remember.
Alex Rodriguez had three: May 14 vs. the Minnesota Twins, May 31 vs. the Cleveland Indians, and July 7 at Oakland. Rodriguez now has 21 career grand slams, and he will tie Lou Gehrig for most career grannies (23) if he hits two slams next season.
Jorge Posada crushed two grand slams this year: June 12 and 13 vs. the Houston Astros. Two grand slams in as many games–now that’s impressive.
Robinson Cano also hit two: May 28 vs. the Indians and Aug. 22 vs. the Seattle Mariners.
Curtis Granderson smacked a granny in Baltimore against the Orioles on June 8.
On July 3, Brett Gardner crushed his first career grand slam at home vs. the Blue Jays, a game my friends and I were going to attend. We opted instead to make a trip to Cooperstown to visit the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
I was however at Yankee Stadium on June 20, when Mark Teixeira clobbered a grand slam off Mets’ ace Johan Santana.
It’s safe to say the Yankees did a number on opposing pitching when the bases were loaded in 2010. What’s more, the Bronx Bombers won every game they hit a grand slam in.
6) Derek Jeter’s Inside-the-Park Home Run
On July 22, Derek Jeter rounded the bases all the way for an inside-the-park home run in the Yankees’ game against the Kansas City Royals. It was only his second career in-the-parker, and ironically enough, his first also came against the Royals.
One could argue it was not exactly the prettiest inside-the-park home run, because center fielder David DeJesus had a play on the ball. He could not come down with it however, and he crashed into the plexiglass in right-center field. Jeter caught a break and was able to motor all the way around to tie the game at three.
DeJesus injured himself on the play and was taken out of the game. If he hadn’t fallen down, Jeter may not have been able to complete the home run.
In any event, it was one of the coolest home runs of the year. The Yankees went on to beat the Royals that day by a score of 10-4.
5) Joe Torre vs. The Yankees
Former manager vs. former team. Teacher vs. his students. Joe Torre vs. the Yankees.
In June the Yanks met the Dodgers for a three-game series during interleague play and for the first time since 2007, the Yankees saw their old skipper Joe Torre. It was an interesting weekend; a turning point in the Yankees’ 2010 season.
The Dodgers and Yanks rekindled their old rivalry and traded victories in the first two games. Los Angeles handed the Yankees a decisive 9-4 win in the second game while the Bombers slipped past the Dodgers 2-1 in the first game.
The rubber game looked to belong to the Dodgers, as they led 6-2 in the ninth with flamethrower Jonathan Broxton on the mound. The resilient Yanks would not have any of it, as they rallied to score four runs in the ninth to knot the game at six.
An RBI double by Robinson Cano, a two-run double by Chad Huffman, and a fielder’s choice by Curtis Granderson, and the Yankees are back in it.
Cano came up in the top of the tenth, belting a long two-run home run to left-center. The Yankees went on to win 8-6 and beat their former teacher, winning the series 2-1.
I cannot speak for the rest of the Yankee fans, but to me, it felt SWEET to beat Torre. Sweet.
4) Mark Teixeira’s Big Day in Boston
Once, twice, three times the “Tex Message.”
The Yankees visited the Red Sox on May 8, beating them 14-3. It was one of those great days to be a Yankee fan, to say the least.
Mark Teixeira accounted for a large amount of the scoring, hitting three home runs and driving in five runs on a total of four hits. He scored three runs and became only the second Yankee in history to hit three homers in one game off Boston–second only to Lou Gehrig.
I can remember watching that game with so much joy. Anytime the Yankees embarrass the Red Sox on a Saturday afternoon Fox Game of the Week, it’s a good day.
What also made it more enjoyable was what happened afterward.
The YES Network hosted their “Extra Innings” postgame show, where they ask the audience to write in their thoughts, ideas, or comments. If they like them they use them on the show.
I noticed how Red Sox third baseman Adrian Beltre had eight errors to that point in the season, and it was only May 8. I wrote in a comment and it made it to TV. The YES Network analysts said my name on TV and discussed my comment on the show.
There could not have been a better way to cap off a big Yankee win over the Red Sox.
3) The ALDS
The Yankees swept the Twins in the ’09 American League Division Series and did the same in 2010. This year the Yankees did not have home field advantage and had to win two games at Target Field before coming home to clinch the division.
In all honesty, I thought this year might be the Twins’ moment; I thought it may have been time for the Twins to get over the hump and finally beat the Yanks in the playoffs.
No such luck.
Another year, another early exit at the hands of the Yankees for Minnesota.
Although the ALCS was painful–unbearably, absoluteLEE painful–to watch, sweeping the Twins was a great start to October. After the Yanks swept, I thought history would repeat itself yet again. Unfortunately the magic vanished to the Texas Rangers.
But nothing can take away the feeling of beating the Twins. It was a great feeling.
Alex Rodriguez, one way or another, is going down in the history books. Whether or not people recognize him as the greatest hitter of all-time, or just another major leaguer who tried to cheat the system, he will always be known and remembered.
On Aug. 4 A-Rod crushed his 600th career home run–exactly three years to the day after he hit his 500th home run. He joined baseball’s “600 Home Run Club” with the likes of Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Ken Griffey, Jr., and Sammy Sosa.
A lot of folks, namely the New York Daily News, were quick to judge Rodriguez’s home run as a tainted accomplishment. Many people and baseball fans believe that because Rodriguez admitted steroid usage in his career, the feat means nothing.
Me on the other hand…well, I believe it still means a lot. I have offered my opinion on steroids and do not condone drug usage. However, I believe it takes more than steroids to hit 600 home runs. Plenty of players who were on the juice never came close to 100 home runs, let alone 600.
I still consider it a great moment for A-Rod and a great moment for the Yankee organization.
1) The Game for the Boss and Sheppard
On July 13 the Yankees lost their principle owner. I used to refer to George Steinbrenner as “The Godfather” of the Yankees, and this season he lost his life at the age of 80.
Steinbrenner was the longest tenured Yankee owner in team history and he died just two days after the Yanks lost their longtime public address announcer, the legendary Bob Sheppard.
On July 16, the Yanks’ first game following the All-Star break–and more importantly their first game after losing their Boss (and only their second game after losing Sheppard), they dramatically rallied back to beat the Tampa Bay Rays 5-4.
The night started off in emotional fashion. The team could barely hold in their tears and Jeter, our fearless captain, could hardly keep himself together as he addressed the crowd during the pregame ceremony. There was a two-minute period of dead silence during the ceremony, and not one Yankee fan made a peep.
All that was heard throughout Yankee Stadium during those two minutes: the whipping sounds of the flags blowing in the wind and a passing subway train. That’s how much respect Sheppard and Steinbrenner commanded.
Mariano Rivera placed two long-stemmed roses over home plate in remembrance of their fallen comrades.
The Yanks scuffled a bit during the game, giving the Rays a 4-3 edge heading into the eighth. Nick Swisher had other plans, crushing a game-tying home run in the bottom of the frame before recording the big game-winning hit in the ninth, a single which plated Curtis Granderson.
Yankees win an emotional game for Sheppard and the Boss.
Later in the season, Steinbrenner was honored with a plaque out in Monument Park. The Yankees invited many of their former players and dignitaries, including Joe Torre and Don Mattingly. Everyone filed out to the area behind centerfield and another ceremony was held unveiling the plaque on Sept. 20.
Unfortunately the Yankees could not capitalize and win their 28th title the year of Steinbrenner’s passing. However, it’s important to remember that when he passed away, the Yankees were reigning champions.
Well, that about puts a cap on 2010.
May 2011 bring many more great Yankee memories, and hopefully the 28th World Series Championship.
Pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training next month!
On June 15, 1964, The Chicago Cubs traded away left fielder Lou Brock to the St. Louis Cardinals for a right-handed pitcher named Ernie Broglio. Brock went on to enjoy an outstanding career; six All-Star selections, two World Series Championships, The Babe Ruth Award, The Roberto Clemente Award, his number 20 is retired by the Cards, and in 1985 he was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Not bad for a career’s work.
Broglio on the other hand…well. Not many people remember his name and he didn’t do much else with career after he was dealt to the Cubs. He finished his pitching career with a 77-74 record, a 3.74 ERA, and 849 strikeouts. His only accomplishment: winning the most games in the National League in 1960.
Who got the better end of that deal? The Cardinals, of course. Nowadays, whenever a lopsided trade occurs, in baseball terminology, it’s called a “Brock for Broglio.”
Being a devout Yankee fan, there are several instances (in my lifetime) I can think of when the Yankees either made a terrible trade or a bogus free agent signing. With the recent departure of Javier Vazquez, and in the spirit of “Free Agent Frenzy,” I got the idea to write about some of the worst moves the Yankees have made over the years.
So without any further ado, I give you my top Yankee trade/free agent busts.
Here we go…
Jay Buhner for Ken Phelps
“What the hell did you trade Jay Buhner for? He had 30 home runs and over 100 RBIs last year. He’s got a rocket for an arm. You don’t know what the hell your doing!!!!”
On an episode of the TV show Seinfeld, George Costanza’s father Frank (played by Jerry Stiller) scolded George Steinbrenner for trading away a 23 year-old right fielder by the name of Jay Buhner.
The Yankees gave Buhner to the Seattle Mariners in July of 1988 along with two minor leaguers–Rich Balabon and Troy Evers–in exchange for Ken Phelps. To this day, the trade is considered by many fans to be one of the worst trades the Yankees ever made in their history.
A classic “Brock for Broglio,” no doubt.
Buhner went on to become an All-Star and win a Gold Glove in 1996, and in 2004 he was inducted into the Seattle Mariners Hall of Fame. As far as numbers are concerned, Buhner averaged almost 22 home runs per season after leaving the Yankees and knocked in over 100 runs for three consecutive seasons from 1995-97.
It is obvious Buhner established himself on both sides of the field and overall was an excellent player.
Phelps on the other hand just faded away. He had only caught Steinbrenner’s eye initially because he was able to hit 14 home runs in half a season–a feat the Yankee owner viewed as impressive. Unfortunately he gave away a player who went on to enjoy success and in return received a player who went on to become a nobody.
Now whenever someone mentions Phelps, he is remembered as “The guy that got traded for Jay Buhner.”
As a Yankee fan did losing Buhner upset me? Did watching him perform so well year after year against us annoy me because I knew he could have been doing it for us?
Yes and no.
I liked Buhner, even though he was on the Mariners. He had such poise and talent; he could swing a hot bat, could play stellar defense, and yes it was hard to watch him knowing he was once a Yankee.
But at the same time, the Yankees had a pretty good right fielder of their own named Paul O’Neill–a man who earned the nickname “The Warrior” by Steinbrenner. Having O’Neill may have even been better than having Buhner.
After all, O’Neill was a force in the Yankee Dynasty. Without him, the Yankees may not have won the title in 1996 and 1998-2000. O’Neill battled year in and year out and because of his work ethic, he helped guide the Yankees to the Championship.
And for as good as Buhner was, he never won a title. With O’Neill in right field, the Yankees did.
You know things aren’t going well for you when your boss calls you a “Fat P—y Toad.” Hideki Irabu was called this name by Steinbrenner, simply because he did not cover first base on a ground ball–in Spring Training, no less. In fact, The Boss didn’t even allow his pitcher to travel with the team to Los Angeles after the incident because he was so infuriated.
That’s what you would call a serious “FML” experience.
The San Diego Padres had purchased Irabu’s contract in 1997 from the Chiba Lotte Marines of the Nippon Professional Baseball League in Japan. Believe it or not, his purchase led to the current format used today that MLB enacts to sign Japanese players. Without this deal, players like Ichiro, Hideki Matsui, Daisuke Matsuzaka, and Hiroki Kuroda would have never made it to the Majors.
Apparently Irabu wanted to act as much like a big-name superstar as he could, because he refused to sign with San Diego. What’s more, he stated he would only like to play for the Yankees.
That’s a bit egotistical, wouldn’t you say?
The Yankees eventually had to offer San Diego players in exchange for the rights to negotiate with Irabu. When it was all said and done, the Yanks gave up, $3 million, Rafael Medina, and Ruben Rivera (cousin of Mariano Rivera) for Homer Bush and the rights to Irabu–who was later signed by New York for $12.8 million over four years.
A complicated exchange and one that never really did pay off.
The best season Irabu put up was 1998. His numbers:
· 13 wins
· 4.06 ERA
· 173 innings pitched
· Two complete games
· 28 games started
Not exactly worth $12.8 million, if you ask me. I suppose the Yankees could have gotten a little more bang for their buck; or they at least could have signed him for less money.
Irabu collected two World Series rings (1998 and ’99) but didn’t even last all four years he was under contract with the Yankees. After 1999, Irabu was traded to the Montreal Expos (now known to most fans as the Washington Nationals) for Ted Lilly, Christian Parker, and Jake Westbrook. He finished his MLB career with a 34-35 record, a 5.15 ERA and 405 lifetime Ks.
And much like the Buhner trade, Irabu was spoofed on Seinfeld for his poor performance. In the show’s final episode, Frank once again confronts Steinbrenner and yells,
“How could you spend $12 million on Hideki Irabu????!!!”
I guess we will never know, Mr. Costanza.
I can understand why Steinbrenner and the Yankees sought Kevin Brown. He had racked up a lifetime of accolades, including a World Series ring. He was even named “Pitcher of the Year” by The Sporting News in 1998. Brown had made a number of All-Star game appearances, and had the ability to carry a pitching staff working as the ace.
What I cannot understand however, is how a pitcher can get so frustrated that he throws a punch at a wall and breaks his pitching hand in the process. I mean, if you are a pitcher and you have a bad game and get called on it by your teammates or manager, slam your glove to the dugout floor. Take a bat to the dugout water fountain, if you are feeling especially psychotic. Or my personal favorite, knock over a Gatorade cooler.
But don’t ever, under any circumstances, try to pick a fight with a wall and use physicality. The wall is guaranteed to win every time.
With that sheer display of immaturity, I not only lost all respect for Brown but now consider him a terrible move the Yankees made. I don’t really see it as a “Brock for Broglio” per se, because the Bombers only gave up Jeff Weaver, Yhency Brazoban, Brandon Weeden, and $2.6 million for Brown.
Aside from Weaver, the Yanks did not let go anyone of note and Weaver struggled mightily in the 2003 World Series…although his fall classic struggles didn’t stop him from pitching like a stud for the Cardinals in the 2006 World Series…
In 2004 the Yanks probably felt Brown would help lead their pitching staff. But those feelings were not exactly well-founded.
In 2004 Brown went 10-6 with a 4.06 ERA, which weren’t bad numbers for an older pitcher who was playing for the first time in the crazy New York atmosphere. In fact, Brown pitched rather well in the ’04 ALDS vs. the Minnesota Twins, posting six innings and only giving up one run. The Yanks went on to win the series 3-1.
However, his ALCS Game Seven outing vs. Boston is what he is most infamous for; pitching less than two innings and allowing five runs, including a two-run homer to the hated David Ortiz. Essentially, Brown didn’t give the Yankees a shred of a chance to come back and win the pennant.
All Yankee fans, including myself, were outraged. He picked the worst day of the season to have a poor outing. The most important game ever and Joe Torre used the least intelligent member of his pitching staff.
In 2005, Brown attempted to come back, but was sidelined due to injuries. He finished the year in ’05 with a 4-7 record and an ERA of 6.50. The following off-season, he announced his retirement.
I don’t blame the Yanks for trying to catch lightening in a bottle with Brown; there is no denying that he was a decent pitcher in his prime. Yet, it did turn out to be a bad move because they caught Brown in the twilight of his career. As a Yankee, he was nothing but a shell of his former self and could not get the job done when it came to nut-cutting time.
Overall, I chalk Brown up as a big loss for the Yankees.
$39.95 million that could have gone to a better cause. Charity, I suppose.
Following the 2004 collapse to the Red Sox in the ALCS, the Yankees were convinced they needed starting pitching. Along with the big signing of the Big Unit, Randy Johnson, the Yanks sought and landed free agent hurler Carl Pavano.
I used the term “hurler” not because Pavano is a starting pitcher, but because just by mentioning his name makes me want to hurl.
Not for nothing, Pavano was coming off his best career season, numerically, in ’04. In his contract year with the Florida Marlins, he won 18 games while only losing eight and posted a respectable 3.00 ERA. His numbers made him a hot free agent commodity and multiple teams, including Boston and the Cincinnati Reds, wanted him.
Ultimately it was the Yankees who got Pavano and I wish they hadn’t. It would have been better for them if the Red Sox or Reds had wasted their money on him.
At first Pavano appeared to be a decent pitcher. He gave the Yankees quality in seven of his first 10 starts, putting together a 4-2 record and posting a 3.69 ERA–again, not bad for just starting out in the New York environment.
But by June of ’05 Pavano got hurt for the first of many times. Truthfully, his injuries and disabled list stints piled up more than his actual baseball statistics.
· Went on the DL in June of ’05 with right shoulder injury. Ultimately went 4-6 with a 4.77 ERA for the season.
· Began 2006 with bruised buttocks; on DL for first half of year. Then…
· Broke two ribs in a car accident in August of ’06; did not end up pitching at all in an MLB game.
· On April 15, 2007 was placed on DL after what was diagnosed as an “elbow strain.” The next month Pavano announced that he would opt to have Tommy John surgery and missed the remainder of the year.
· First start coming off Tommy John came on Aug. 23, 2008. He pitched five innings and gave up three runs on seven hits.
· The next month on Sept. 14, Pavano left the game with an apparent left hip injury.
I have two words for all that: cry baby. He never pitched a full season with the Yankees.
What really struck me were Pavano’s comments after his last game as a Yankee. The press questioned him about his ineffectiveness and his repeated injuries; they were probably about as skeptical about his excuses as most fans were.
Pavano responded by saying, “Well, what are you going to do, you know?”
Really? That’s the best he could do? $39.95 million should buy a little more thought than that. Pavano concluded his tenure (if you can even call it that) with a record of 9-8.
Prior to 2007, Mike Mussina stepped up and publicly called Pavano on his injuries. Mussina said, “His injuries don’t look good from a player’s standpoint. Was everything just a coincidence? Over and over again? I don’t know.”
Thank goodness one of his teammates spoke out against him. Quite honestly it needed to be done.
In 2009 Pavano joined the Cleveland Indians and was traded mid-season to the Twins. I couldn’t even believe it when I noticed that halfway through 2009 he was one of the league leaders in wins. He even finished 2009 with a record of 14-12–winning five more games in one year with Cleveland and Minnesota than he did in four years with the Yankees.
How ridiculous is that?
At any rate, it must have been fun for the Yanks to punish Pavano for all the grief he put them through by beating him in Game Three of the ’09 ALDS–en route to their 27th World Series title.
If I were the Yankees last year, I would have sent Pavano a Christmas card with a picture of everyone hoisting the World Series trophy. Along with that, the Yanks could have attached a note to the photo that read, “Thanks for nothing.”
The Yanks also beat Pavano in the ALDS this past season, another satisfying moment for all Yankee fans.
Javier Vazquez and Nick Johnson
I decided to combine these last two players simply because they failed in pinstripes not once, but twice.
I’ll begin with Javier Vazquez.
The day after the Yankees were eliminated from the ALCS at the hands of the Texas Rangers, it was reported that Vazquez was already speaking to the Washington Nationals about possibly pitching for them in 2011. His talks with the Nats obviously cooled off, and as reported on Sunday, Vazquez has apparently agreed to a deal with the Florida Marlins.
I have four words for him: good riddance, you bum.
Before this past season began, Vazquez was acquired from the Atlanta Braves along with reliever Boone Logan. In exchange for Vazquez, the Bombers gave up young outfielder Melky Cabrera and rookie reliever Mike Dunn.
I would not necessarily categorize the trade as a “Brock for Broglio,” although it kind of had that quality. Cabrera had an awesome year in 2009; he smacked three walk-off hits for the Yanks (including the first walk-off home run in the New Stadium), became the first Yankee to hit for the cycle since Tony Fernandez in 1995, and capped it all off with a World Series ring.
Cabrera was a beast and was looked at as one of the most pleasant surprises in ’09.
The Yankees however did need starting pitching. They only used three starting pitchers in the playoffs and were able to get over the hurdles on the strength of three horses: CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and Andy Pettitte. They needed a fourth man and they looked to Vazquez.
Why they wanted Vazquez, I’ll never know.
Sure he was second in the National League when it came to ERA in 2009 (with 2.87) and he won 15 games for the Braves. I suppose the Yankees thought they would really be unstoppable if they could get that kind of production out of their number four starter–which made it somewhat understandable.
Yet, the Yankees must have forgotten how Vazquez busted for them in 2004, which was his first stint in pinstripes. In ’04 Vazquez went 14-10 with a 4.91 ERA. Like Brown, he pitched in Game Seven of the ’04 ALCS, giving up a grand slam and a two-run homer to Johnny Damon–once again, not giving the Yankees a shred of a chance to come back and win the pennant.
Maybe they figured he could do a lot better than that come his second go-round. Perhaps the Steinbrenners and Brian Cashman had the mentality of, “It can’t get any worse, he can only do better.”
In 2010 Vazquez pitched to a 10-10 season record with a 5.32 ERA. He started 31 games and allowed 32 home runs, pitching so poorly throughout the year that he did not even make it into the postseason starting rotation. Was the trade really worth giving up Cabrera?
Well I guess it didn’t matter. Cabrera finished 2010 with a .255 batting average for Atlanta and only hit four homers and knocked in 42 runs. But that doesn’t erase what he did in 2009, and if he had played in the Bronx in 2010, he might have had a better year.
The bottom line is that Vazquez was a bad move made by the Yankees. I knew he was going to bust before the season began; actually I knew he was going to fail again right after the trade was completed. It was just so foreseeable. And when he gave up that first-pitch home run to Jimmy Rollins on day one of Spring Training, I knew it was all over for him.
And then there was Johnson.
In 2001, Johnson served the Yankees as Tino Martinez’s backup at first base. When Martinez left for St. Louis after the season ended, Johnson became a little bit of a regular first baseman, albeit the Yanks did have Jason Giambi in their lineup and available to play first.
Johnson would go on to rank seventh in the league in hit-by-pitches in 2002, but did put up a somewhat decent year in ’03. Johnson clubbed 14 homers and drove in 47 runs with a .284 batting average, but his injury-prone nature kept him from truly breaking out.
The Yankees had no choice but to trade him at the end of ’03, ironically enough for Vazquez. Two useless Yankees got traded for one another. Really, what are the odds? And like Vazquez, as useless as Johnson was, the Yankees still could not manage to give up on him.
On Dec. 23, 2009 the Yanks signed Johnson back to a one-year, $5.5 million deal.
This past year Johnson was expected to be the everyday designated hitter, taking up the mantle of the great, 2009 World Series MVP Hideki Matsui. Unfortunately, Johnson saw little action because of a wrist injury. In fact, before the season even began, Johnson injured his back in Spring Training, proving once again that he did not belong in a Yankee uniform.
He finished 2010 very early with 24 games under his belt, only 98 plate appearances, two home runs, eight RBIs, and 12 runs scored.
The bottom line is, the Yankees have wasted a ton of money on terrible players and have given away some great players to get some rather mediocre ones. But they are not the only organization to do it; it happens to the best of teams.
I mean, the Red Sox gave up Jeff Bagwell for a reliever named Larry Andersen. (Who?)
The Blue Jays gave the Yankees David Cone for three minor leaguers who never made it.
The Devil Rays gave Bobby Abreu to the Phillies for Kevin Stocker. (Who?)
And who could forget the New York Mets giving up Scott Kazmir for Victor Zambrano?
Chan Ho Park–yes, Mr. Diarrhea himself–got $65 million from the Texas Rangers in 2002.
Juan Pierre received $44 million from the Dodgers in 2007.
Yes, baseball organizations are human and make bad moves sometimes. Maybe next week I’ll review some of the BEST moves the Yankees have made; off-season changes that have paid off royally and had a great impact on the team. I can think of quite a few right off the top of my head.
And while I’m waiting, I’ll hope the Yankees can decide on the right moves. The Baseball Winter Meetings begin next week and I’m hoping the Bombers can make a splash in Orlando.
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.