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!
Think back to the movie “Rocky V” for a second. I know it’s hard to, since it’s the worst sequel in the “Rocky” movie series. Boxing promoter George Washington Duke wants Rocky to fight his protégé Tommy “The Machine” Gunn. In the end Rocky takes him on in a street fight and mercilessly beats him.
“Rocky V” came out in 1990. Now fast forward to Saturday–it was almost the same principle.
The Los Angeles Dodgers, headed by former New York Yankee manager Joe Torre, decisively beat Joe Girardi’s Yanks 9-4. The Bronx Bombers had won on Friday by a count of 2-1, setting up the rubber game yesterday night.
Girardi served as a player and a coach under Torre, so in the words of Duke, it would be “Old lion vs. young lion; teacher vs. pupil” for the series win.
And what a rubber game it was.
The Dodgers seemingly had an easy series victory heading into the ninth inning, leading 6-2 with one out and the flame-throwing Jonathan Broxton on the mound. Who would have guessed the Yankees would play the role of comeback kids?
The Bombers scored four runs in the ninth frame to knot the game at six. A double by Robinson Cano to score Alex Rodriguez, a single by Chad Huffman to score Cano and Jorge Posada, and a fielder’s choice by Colin Curtis to score Curtis Granderson.
An improbable, but not impossible comeback–how many times have we seen this from the Yankees? (Whether they were managed by Torre or Girardi)
Cano later played the role of hero, belting a long two-run homer to left-center field in the top of the tenth, his 15th round-tripper of the season, to put the Yankees up 8-6.
From there they never looked back, taking the series from the Dodgers 2-1 and leaving So-Cal with a record of 47-28, still in first place in the AL East.
The pupil prevailed over the teacher this weekend, and it really came down to the pitching.
Broxton had thrown 19 pitches on Saturday and tossed an overwhelming amount of pitches during last night’s game. In fact, the Dodgers’ closer threw 48 pitches over the one inning he worked.
Don’t you think that’s enough? Closers are not supposed to be throwing 67 pitches over two days. They are not really built for that kind of work. Granted, the Yankees were extremely patient with Broxton; Posada and Curtis both worked 10-pitch at-bats, while Granderson worked an eight-pitch at-bat.
Among all three of those hitters, Broxton tossed 28 pitches.
But Torre refused to take him out. It even took him awhile to get another pitcher up and warming in the bullpen before Broxton went on to blow the lead. When he could have taken Broxton out for another pitcher, he left him in the game, only to lose it.
And this, my friends, is (why I think) the Yankees had to let Torre go.
Do not misunderstand me; I have nothing but respect for him. Every year he was Yankee manager he led his team to the playoffs. Four times out of those 12 (which would translate to 1/3 of his years as Yankee manager) he took them all the way to the World Series Title. Six out of those 12 seasons (or 1/2 of his years as Yankee manager) the Yankees were in the World Series.
From where the Yankees were (which in a lot of ways they were in a state of mediocrity from the early 1980s into the late ’90s) Torre brought them back. He turned the team around and the Yankees, under Torre, once again became THE YANKEES.
Torre’s resume and what he did at the helm of the Yankees speaks for itself. Four World Titles, six pennants…that’s just amazing. Most managers can only dream about what Torre did when he was the head man for the Bronx Bombers.
However some of his decisions regarding the bullpen were often criticized, especially towards the end of his run in 2006 and 2007. As far as that criticism goes, it was well-deserved. He over-used many of his bullpen pitchers and slowly they faded away; they lost their luster and were never the same pitchers again.
Consider former Yankee relief pitcher Scott Proctor. From 2004-05 with the Yankees (and under Torre) he only made 56 appearances out of the bullpen–which is respectable over a two-year span. But in 2006, Torre used him out of the ‘pen 83 times and he tossed a mind-numbing 102 1/3 innings.
For a reliever, that’s just absurd; it’s not even fair! And it was the same story in 2007.
Before the Yankees traded him to the Dodgers for Wilson Betemit in the middle of the ’07 season, Proctor was used 52 times with 54 1/3 innings already under his belt. He once again finished the season with 83 appearances and 86 1/3 innings pitched.
Again, it just wasn’t right for Torre to use him that many times.
Buster Olney, baseball insider and author of “The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty” mentioned in his book that one of Torre’s former pitchers (who chose to go unnamed) said, “I think Joe Torre is a great manager. He nearly ruined my arm, but he is a great manager.”
I have no doubt in my mind that Proctor was the pitcher who said this.
On the night of Oct. 8, 2007, Yankee Stadium burst into a loud chant of “Joe Torr-e (clap, clap, clap-clap-clap!)” It was his final game as Yankee manager and this was the fans’ way of saying goodbye, as they knew this would probably be his last round as Yankee skipper.
I was watching the game at home and something was happening to me; I felt strange and sad. I also knew Torre’s days as head of the Yankees were numbered and as soon as the Yankees exited the first round of the playoffs he would probably be gone.
It was sad to me, because he was really the only Yankee manager I knew; when Buck Showalter was the manger before Torre, I was young and not nearly as big of a Yankee fan as I am now.
I remember texting my dad after the game was over, and I expressed my sadness about Torre. My dad’s response: “It doesn’t matter what the Yankees do. He is still the BEST manager in baseball!”
That text message almost made me cry–because at the time I believed it was true.
The Yankees offered Torre a small salary at the conclusion of ’07–$6 million for a year, plus an additional $million for every round of the playoffs he could make it through. If he could reach and win the World Series, he could potentially make $9 million.
The offer, to me, was insulting and disrespectful.
How could the Yankees, in their right minds, basically (in not so many words) say, “Well Mr. Torre, you haven’t won the title in a long time; seven years, in fact. Maybe the money will give you extra incentive to want to win it all again.”
In his first year as Yankee manager, Torre brought them a title. It had been 18 years since the Yankees had won a Championship. The New York newspapers even went out of their way to call him “Clueless Joe” when he was named skipper, thinking he had no idea what he was doing.
He certainly proved that he did know what he was doing when it came to management–at least up until the end of his tenure.
Apparently the Yankee organization looked past all that when they came up with the poor excuse for a deal. I still cannot believe they offered him that deal, but I also think the Yankees knew what they were doing; I think they wanted to make him that deal because they knew he wouldn’t accept it.
Basically, they were trying to move him out and they succeeded.
It seems now that the Yankees (in a way) have turned on Torre. There has been speculation about a “rift” between Torre and Brian Cashman, the Yankees’ General Manager. After all, Cashman is responsible for coming up with the deals and is really the main person in charge of negotiations, so the idea for Torre’s insulting deal could have been his brainchild.
I don’t think Torre’s book “The Yankee Years” helped at all, either.
In the book, Torre mentioned something about Rodriguez and how he and others called him “A-Fraud.” I never really heard Torre deny the claim or refute it in any way, so maybe he did say some unfavorable things about his superstar player.
As for Rodriguez: he didn’t care. When A-Rod was going through the “steroid saga” prior to the 2009 season, Torre’s comments in the book came up in questioning. Rodriguez simply stated, “I’m a good receiver, not a good ragger. When people rag on me, I take it. But I don’t like to rag on other people.”
Torre and Rodriguez hadn’t spoken until Sunday, when A-Rod approached his former manager during batting practice and talked with him. If you ask me, it was one of those, “Everyone has noticed we haven’t said anything to each other, so let’s just say something to each other to get them off our backs.”
It’s nothing Bill Belichick hasn’t done a million times in his life.
If the media hadn’t pointed it out, would Rodriguez have said anything to Torre at all? I’m not sure. I don’t really think it matters now, anyway. They acknowledged one another and now the press can stop talking about it.
All I can say now is that I have the utmost respect for Torre. I don’t think he makes the right decisions in terms of his bullpen, and last night was just another example of that. To leave Broxton in for that long was simply a bad move; it backfired on him, as it has several times when he was Yankee manager.
Yet I haven’t forgotten him; in my mind, he will always be a Yankee legend. No matter how bad his rift is with the organization, no matter what he said in his book, and no matter how far away he is, he will always be my favorite Yankee skipper.
But…I am sure glad we beat him this weekend. I love Torre, but I LOVE the Yankees.