On Tuesday the Yankees played the Atlanta Braves to a 5-4 win. Today the Braves gained a measure of redemption, beating the Yankees 6-2 in an exhibition at George M. Steinbrenner Field.
Tied at two heading into the top of the seventh, Yankees’ reliever Steve Garrison imploded. The Braves scratched four runs across the plate to take lead and eventually the game. Brent Clevlen singled to score Diory Hernandez to give Atlanta a 3-2 edge. Matt Young followed with an RBI single which plated Brooks Conrad, giving the Braves a 4-2 lead.
Later in the frame Wilkins Castillo grounded out to short, allowing Clevlen to cross the plate. Ed Lucas topped out the huge inning with a single to score Young, giving the Braves six runs in the game.
The Braves scored their initial run in the top of the first on a single by Chipper Jones to score Martin Prado. Jordan Schafer clubbed a solo homer in the second to give the Braves their second run.
The Yankees scored their first run in the second inning on a long solo home run over the right field wall off the bat of Jorge Posada. In the bottom of the sixth, Alex Rodriguez grounded to third, which allowed Andruw Jones to score, tying the game at two.
Tommy Hanson made the start for Atlanta and turned in a good outing. He tossed four innings and gave up one earned run on five hits. He didn’t walk a batter and struck out two.
Phil Hughes started for New York. He pitched four innings, and gave up two earned runs on seven hits. He walked one batter and K’d two.
Notes & Things to Look Out For
· First off, thoughts and sympathy go out to all affected by the earthquake in Japan. An 8.9 on the Richter scale? – Now that is serious. Yankee pitcher Kei Igawa was permitted to leave the Minor League training facility in an attempt to contact his loved ones in Japan. Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Takashi Saito was also allowed to leave camp, concerned for his relatives back home. We as Americans are left praying and hoping everyone in the Far East will be OK. I can’t help but think of Hideki Matsui, too. I am praying for him and everyone else in Japan. May God be with all of them during this crisis.
· Phil Hughes has a 5.00 ERA this spring. Today he fell behind a few hitters and surrendered a home run, also allowing seven hits and nine total base runners. Was I impressed? Not really. Did he look sharp? Not really. Am I concerned? A little bit. A lot of people jump all over A.J. Burnett’s back for having a poor record and an inflated ERA last season – and rightfully so, Burnett had an off-year.
But what they don’t realize, or seem to remember, is that Hughes pitched to a 4.19 ERA last year (about one run lower than Burnett, who notched a 5.26 ERA) and lost the deciding game of the American League Championship Series. His record last season was 18-8, which is probably why everyone is quick to forgive him. I’m just worried Hughes had a “fluke year” in 2010 and will not be as effective in 2011. His arm seemed to tire towards the end of last year and if it happens again, it could cause some problems for the Yankee rotation.
· Derek Jeter had a hit today and his average is now at .333. It’s good to see the Captain hitting above .300 again and I’m sure he will continue to work on the stride adjustment.
· It was documented that Mark Teixeira is in mid-season form. The slugging first baseman is batting .364 this spring and was 1-for-3 today. The Yanks need a lot of production out of Teixeira this year and right now he is proving that there are no carryover effects of his injuries last year – the hamstring and the broken toe. Traditionally he is a slow starter, but maybe he can leap that hurdle this year and have a big month of April.
· Jorge Posada’s home run today was a BOMB. At 39 years old he is still showing that power he has generally possessed throughout his career. Today he homered from the left side of the plate and the ball would have landed in the second deck at Yankee Stadium, had the game been played there. Although he probably won’t catch at all this year, he might still see some field time. In yesterday’s 7-0 loss to the Phillies, he played first base.
· Regulars Curtis Granderson, Robinson Cano, and Nick Swisher did not play. Granderson and Swisher played in Dunedin against the Toronto Blue Jays, as the Yanks were in split squad action. Granderson was 1-for-3 with an RBI and two runs scored. Swisher was also 1-for-3 with an RBI.
· Although Granderson and Swisher both had good days at the plate, the other squad lost to the Jays, 10-3.
· Austin Krum made a diving catch to rob Ed Lucas of a hit in the sixth inning. Highlight-reel worthy catch, if I do say so myself. Joba Chamberlain tipped his cap to Krum – and his line: one inning pitched, no runs, two hits, no walks, and one strikeout. Chamberlain’s spring ERA is now 3.60.
· Rafael Soriano made his second appearance of the spring today. He tossed a perfect fifth inning, striking out Brooks Conrad and Martin Prado while getting Chipper Jones to ground out. Soriano will be the eighth inning setup man and I am really excited for him. He looks as though he will be lights out.
· Soriano will be setting up the incomparable Mariano Rivera, who has yet to throw a pitch in a game this spring. He will however get his first spring action on Sunday, according to the YES Network.
· Ivan Nova started against the Blue Jays today. His line: three innings pitched, two earned runs on five hits, two walks, one K, and he gave up a homer to Jose Bautista. He’s been fairly solid up until now. He can bury one shaky start. He has to come out strong next time to stay in contention for a spot in the rotation.
· Steve Garrison will not make the team. Not after today. But I have a feeling he wasn’t making it anyway. He recorded the loss and basically blew the game against the Braves.
· Jesus Montero went 0-for-3 without a hit today at the Blue Jays. His batting average has dipped below .200 and yes, I am a little worried about that. Especially now that he has a chance to make the team because of Francisco Cervelli’s foot injury.
· Behind the plate for the Braves today was Brian McCann. He threw out Jeter and Justin Maxwell trying to steal. The guy has a great arm.
· Former Yankee Scott Proctor got the win today, even though he blew a save. He is now 1-1 this spring, trying to resurrect a career torn down by arm problems. He has Joe Torre to thank for that. On a side note about Proctor – he really resembles WWE superstar John Cena. It’s uncanny how they look alike.
· The Yankees are now 6-7-2 in Grapefruit League play.
· Tomorrow the Yankees will visit the Washington Nationals. On Sunday they will come back to Tampa to play the Minnesota Twins – which is also the next televised game on the YES Network.
Through 5 2/3 innings, the Yankee pitchers kept the Phillies off the bases. That is until Wilson Valdez smacked a line drive homer off Hector Noesi, a shot that landed over the left field fence at Steinbrenner Field. That blow ended the combined perfect game the Yanks’ hurlers were compiling and plated the only run for the Phillies, as the Bronx Bombers went on to beat them 7-1 this afternoon in an exhibition.
In the bottom of the second Eduardo Nunez crushed a three-run home run deep to left field off starter Roy Oswalt, giving the Yankees a 3-0 lead. Curtis Granderson came up to the plate the next inning and pulled a two-run shot over the left field fence, and the Yanks took a 5-0 lead.
Oswalt was pulled after 2 2/3 innings pitched, and he gave up five runs (three earned) on four hits. He walked no one and struck out three.
In the bottom of the fifth, Jorge Posada singled to plate Brett Gardner. Later in the frame, Granderson scored on an RBI single off the bat of Eric Chavez, giving the Yankees seven runs.
A.J. Burnett started for the Yankees and did not give an inch. The lanky right-hander tossed three perfect innings without allowing a walk. He only had one strikeout, but it was a big one. Burnett whiffed brand name first baseman Ryan Howard.
So far this spring Burnett has tossed five scoreless innings.
Notes & Things to Look Out For
· Obviously A.J. Burnett is doing something right, at least to this point. I mentioned after his first start that he looks like a different pitcher, and it’s the truth; his delivery and arm angle are not the same. His different look gives me a sense of confidence in him, because he didn’t have a good spring like this last year. In fact, I believe I made a remark last spring saying, “His numbers this spring are worse than Joe Biden’s mouth.”
· On a side note about Burnett, he tossed 45 pitches and 30 were strikes. He is demonstrating command – another positive. He looks as though he will be OK, but he is still a work in progress and he’s got a long way to go. Baby steps.
· Jorge Posada laced a double in the bottom of the third, and came around to score on a single by Eric Chavez. Oh wait…he actually didn’t. Posada missed the base and pitcher Vance Worley (who relieved Roy Oswalt) appealed at third and Posada was called out. It helps to touch the base when you’re running. It’s a general rule.
· Nick Swisher made a stellar catch in the top of the fourth to rob Placido Polanco of a hit. In foul ground, Swisher bent over the bullpen railing to make the catch, then front-flipped into the Yankee bullpen. He held on for the catch. It kind of reminded me of July 22, 2009 – the day Swisher ran up the right field wall at Yankee Stadium to make a fantastic catch, worthy of the highlight reel. I was at that game and the crowd went nuts. Everyone loves Swisher.
· Right after Swisher’s catch, Jimmy Rollins chopped a ball off Chavez’s glove at first. He stayed with it and flipped the ball to Joba Chamberlain, who actually covered the base. The big man got to the bag in time, getting Rollins out. Score that crazy play 3-1. It looked more exciting than it sounds.
· Speaking of Joba Chamberlain, he had a good line today: one inning pitched, no hits, no walks, and no strikeouts. It was a step up from his outing on Saturday against the Washington Nationals: one inning pitched, two earned runs on two hits, two walks, and no Ks. I hope this isn’t another up-and-down year for Chamberlain. Whatever Burnett is doing, he needs to do the same. Chamberlain’s ERA this spring is now 4.50.
· Derek Jeter, Robinson Cano, Mark Teixeira, and Alex Rodriguez did not play. Today was a split squad day (meaning there are two games; some players play in the first game and others play in the second). The regular infielders will play later tonight at the Orioles.
· What happened to Roy Oswalt today? He couldn’t get through the third inning. I think it was just an aberration for him, much like CC Sabathia’s poor start on Saturday vs. the Nationals (five runs in 2 2/3 innings). Against National League hitters this year, he’ll hold his own.
· Brett Gardner was 1-for-3 today with an RBI, a walk, and a stolen base. He was hitting from the leadoff spot today and seems capable of that role. He will most likely have to improve his bunting if he wants to hit in the number one hole.
· I have the feeling the fifth infielder spot is going to come down to Chavez and Nunez. Today Chavez had three hits in three at-bats, knocked in a run and came around to score once. He is batting .471 as of press time. Nunez showed a great amount of power with his home run and he is averaging .286 at the plate so far. Ramiro Pena might be the odd man out, only hitting .063 so far. He will have to turn on the jets if he wants to make the team right out of camp.
· “Perpetual” Pedro Feliciano tossed a perfect fifth inning with two Ks. I get the feeling he will be the primary lefty specialist. Sorry Boone Logan.
· Curtis Granderson is batting .357 this spring and has hit two homers so far. He hasn’t even played in every game, and if his numbers are any indication, he is primed for a big season.
· Mark Prior pitched around a Pete Orr double in the eighth, not allowing a run. He didn’t walk a batter and he fanned one. As I wrote a few days ago, I am pulling for him and I want him to be this year’s big comeback story. He is a hard worker and I get the feeling he wants nothing more than to bounce back and help the Yankees. So far he is proving he can do it.
· Jesus Montero went 0-for-1 at the plate today and struck out, leaving a man on base. He hasn’t really had the opportunity to break out, yet he is still hitting .250. His counterpart Austin Romine will get the start at catcher in tonight’s exhibition vs. the Orioles.
· Former Yankee Nick Johnson signed with the Cleveland Indians today. I feel sorry for them.
· Tomorrow afternoon the Yanks will travel to the Wide World of Sports to visit the Atlanta Braves (the game will be broadcasted on the YES Network). Freddy Garcia will make the start for the Bombers.
· The Yanks are now 4-5-1 in Grapefruit League play. (Subject to change, pending the outcome of the game vs. Baltimore tonight)
Following a 5-4 loss in the Grapefruit League opener, the Yankees beat the Phillies 7-3 in Clearwater this afternoon. The Yankees scored two runs in the fourth inning on a two-run, opposite-field home run hit by Curtis Granderson. The Yanks padded their lead in the sixth with four runs, started by an RBI double by Nick Swisher which scored Brett Gardner.
Later in the frame Ryan Howard committed a throwing error, allowing Jordan Parraz to score. Jorge Posada then doubled to score Granderson and top catching prospect Jesus Montero singled to plate Daniel Brewer.
Jorge Vazquez crushed his second homer in as many days in the top of the ninth, a solo homer to left field to give the Yanks their seventh run.
Ben Francisco knocked in all three of the Phillies’ runs. In the seventh he doubled to score Carlos Rivero and he crushed a two-run home run in the bottom of the ninth.
Ivan Nova took the ball for the Yankees today and his line was strong: two innings pitched, no hits, no runs and two strikeouts. The Phillies’ fifth starter Joe Blanton got the nod and his line was also impressive: three innings pitched, no hits, no runs, a walk, and a K.
The Yankees will play Detroit in Lakeland tomorrow afternoon, but there were many storylines and a lot more to take away from today’s win over the Phils.
· In an off-the-field matter, we lost a legend today. Duke Snider, an eight-time All-Star and a two-time World Series Champion, passed away at the age of 85. He enjoyed a wonderful career playing for the Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Mets, and San Francisco Giants. Snider was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1980. R.I.P. Duke.
· Ivan Nova will obviously be fighting for a spot in the rotation, and he made a strong case for himself today. Aside from Chase Utley, who is out with tendinitis in his right knee, the Phillies fielded many of their regulars today. Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino, Ryan Howard, Carlos Ruiz, and Placido Polanco all started. Nova got many of them to groundout, pitching to contact. But his pitches were down and they had sink today. He looked great; almost reminiscent of Chien-Ming Wang a few years back.
· Dellin Betances pitched the fifth inning and demonstrated pretty good control, solid velocity, and accuracy. He struck out the side, albeit allowing a walk. But his fastball was moving, he used his breaking pitch effectively, and he showed a wicked knuckle-curve. He topped out on the speed radar at 97 mph. I can’t wait to see what else he has this spring.
· Jesus Montero was 1-for-3 with an RBI single today. He probably will not make the team right out of camp, as many are already noting. But if today is any indication, he will have a good year and probably see some time in the show.
· Jorge Vazquez’s home run may not have gone as far as it did yesterday, but he is making a really good first impression. Another home run today, this time to left field. He is now leading the Yankees in round-trippers this spring. Not bad for a player wearing number 94.
· It was comforting to see Curtis Granderson go “oppo” and smash a home run to left field. We really didn’t see that a lot last year and if he can adjust his swing and get around the way he did today, he will be a very dangerous hitter in 2011.
· Regular position players Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, and Robinson Cano did not make the trip to Clearwater today.
· After the game, pitching coach Larry Rothschild spoke more about A.J. Burnett. He said last year Burnett looked like a “confused pitcher” but he is expecting him to come back with a strong 2011. He noted that” Burnett’s heart is in the right place” and he will get him in the right frame of mind to pitch this year. As mentioned yesterday, Burnett will start on Wednesday (March 2) vs. The Houston Astros at Steinbrenner Field–which is also the next televised game on the YES Network. All eyes on A.J.
· Sergio Mitre pitched the third inning today, giving up no runs on one hit. No walks and no strikeouts, but he did register the win this afternoon. He will be fighting for that fifth spot in the rotation.
· The Yankees are now 1-1 in Grapefruit League play.
If you read Part I of my analysis of the Yankees and Red Sox on paper, here’s Part II
Right Field: Nick Swisher vs. J.D. Drew
Right field is such an important position on the field and playing the position requires a strong amount of defense. The Yankees and the Red Sox do not have the best defensive right fielders in the A.L., but both do so much to help the team win.
J.D. Drew was signed as a free agent prior to 2007 and had a history of injuries. Boston took a risk signing him, but with that risk has come a pretty good reward. Drew, for the most part, has stayed fairly healthy with Boston and his offensive numbers have climbed over the past couple seasons. Last season he hit 22 home runs and drove in 68 RBIs, despite holding a batting average of .255.
In the Bronx, Nick Swisher has quickly become a fan-favorite. His light-hearted attitude and funny personality has brought calmness to the Yankees and he brings a strong clubhouse presence to the table.
In both seasons Swisher has been with the Yankees, he has hit a total of 58 home runs and has knocked in 171 runs.
Center Field: Curtis Granderson vs. Jacoby Ellsbury
Speed and concentration are probably the two characteristics that define center field. Both the Yankees and Red Sox own center fielders that have those key essentials.
Curtis Granderson provides the Yankees with solid defense. He has the ability to catch fly balls on the run, has shown a decent arm (five outfield assists last year) and has overall demonstrated good leadership in center.
The only knock against him is his strife against left-handed pitching. Yet he still hit 24 home runs last year and knocked in 67 runs with 76 runs scored. If Granderson can show a little more patience at the plate and draw more walks, he will really be dangerous next year. He only walked 53 times in 2010.
Jacoby Ellsbury only played 18 games last season, being sidelined with an apparent rib injury. He didn’t hit any homers and only recorded five RBIs, but when he is healthy, he is deadly. In 2009, Ellsbury led the league in triples (10) and stolen bases (70).
In terms of his defense, Ellsbury is known to take a lot of risks; he dives for a lot of fly balls and his success rate is probably above average. But throwing caution to the wind one too many times can be costly, as evidenced by his injuries.
Left Field: Brett Gardner vs. Carl Crawford
The Red Sox have a slight advantage here, but only in terms of offense.
Defensively, Carl Crawford is as good as they come. As everyone knows he has the speed needed to be an impactful outfielder. Crawford won the Gold Glove for left field in 2010, showing once again he does not need to prove himself as a defender.
Brett Gardner was described by Michael Kay as, “Carl Crawford, just as a cheaper price.” In a lot of ways he was correct, being that Gardner is just as fast as Crawford, maybe faster. However, Crawford is a four time All-Star, an All-Star Game MVP (2009), and came in seventh in last year’s MVP voting.
Gardner was sidelined in 2010 with a wrist injury and he needed surgery in the off-season to rectify it. In 2010 he hit five home runs with 47 RBIs and batted .277.
Crawford on the other hand hit 19 homers, batted .307, drove in 90 runs, and led the league in triples with 13.
Designated Hitter: Jorge Posada vs. David Ortiz
Posada’s offense has already been highlighted, but as mentioned before, he will be the Yankees’ everyday DH. The Red Sox will counter that with their Big Papi, David Ortiz.
Like Rodriguez, people can say what they want about Ortiz being on the “down side” of his career. But if last year was any indication, Big Papi still has a lot left in the tank. Boston’s slugger clubbed 32 homers last year and knocked in 102 runs on a .270 batting average.
Ortiz says it all the time, “All I do is hit. That’s what I am here for, because I don’t play defense.”
And Ortiz can still hit. When he steps up to the plate, there’s no doubt that his presence alone can intimidate a pitcher.
Posada may not intimidate a pitcher the way Ortiz does. But the Yankee DH did have 18 home runs last year, as previously mentioned.
The Yankees will need to maintain their focus if they plan on beating out the Boston Red Sox for the American League East in 2011. A lot of folks are already giving Boston the division, considering their off-season moves.
But excluding starting pitching, Boston and New York seem to be somewhat even.
1st Base: Mark Teixeira vs. Adrian Gonzalez
Mark Teixeira’s batting average dipped to .256 in 2010, but he still managed to hit 33 home runs (to lead the Yankee team) and he knocked in 108 runs while scoring 113. He is a proven hitter and doesn’t need to be sold on, by any means. Everyone knows what a dominant hitter Teixeira can be, not to mention his defense at first is Gold Glove caliber and second-to-none.
Adrian Gonzalez will be playing his first season in 2011 as a member of the Red Sox and hasn’t played in the A.L. since 2005 (with Texas). He will have to adjust back to the pitching in the American League, but expect to see him do some damage; his swing is tailor-made for Fenway Park. Last year he hit 31 homers for San Diego, batted in 101 runs, and scored 87 times.
2nd base: Robinson Cano vs. Dustin Pedroia
The Yankees’ second baseman had arguably the best season of his career in 2010, setting career-highs in home runs (29) and RBIs (109). Robinson Cano came in third in the A.L. MVP voting and played in 160 games, showcasing his durability.
It’s safe to say Cano’s New York star is shining and he will continue to come into his own as a hitter this year. In 2010 on defense, he only committed three errors on the way to his first career Gold Glove.
Just as Cano was setting the Bronx on fire last season, Dustin Pedroia was igniting Beantown. That is until he fouled a ball off his left instep and was sent to the disabled list, ultimately ending his season. The night before he was injured, he went 5-for-5 and hit three home runs off the Colorado Rockies.
Pedroia ended the season with 75 games played, 12 homers, 41 RBIs, and an average of .288. He is bound to come back in the same form this year. On defense, Pedroia is one of the more solid second basemen in the A.L. He is always in the running for the Gold Glove Award and he already has captured one (in 2008).
In what could be a mini-storyline during the season, Pedroia made a recent comment about Cano, saying something along the lines of, “He’s become a (expletive) ballplayer.”
Cano should take that as a compliment. I would.
Shortstop: Derek Jeter vs. Marco Scutaro/Jed Lowrie
Ever since Nomar Garciaparra left Boston, it doesn’t seem as though the Red Sox have ever fully recovered at the shortstop position. They have had a parade of shortstops come in and out while none of them have really been mainstays. From Orlando Cabrera to Julio Lugo; now to Marco Scutaro and Jed Lowrie.
Combined last year, Scutaro and Lowrie hit 19 home runs and knocked in 80 runs. It’s possible they might be solution to Boston’s shortstop dilemma in recent years, at least in terms of their offense.
Their defense, however, is nowhere near perfect.
From the shortstop position last year, Scutaro and Lowrie combined for 19 errors, which by my math are 13 more than Derek Jeter, who only committed six errors last season en route to a Gold Glove.
Jeter’s offense last season wasn’t the best, though, as he hit a career-low .270 with 10 homers and 67 RBIs. He is hoping to return back to his normal BA of above .300. The Yankee Captain will also, in all likelihood, get his 3,000th career hit this year, as he is 74 base hits away from the milestone.
3rd Base: Alex Rodriguez vs. Kevin Youkilis
In 2004 Alex Rodriguez came to New York and was forced to make the transition from shortstop to third base. Under the tutelage of former Yankee third baseman Graig Nettles, Rodriguez has become one of the better third basemen in the A.L., although he has never won a Gold Glove.
Kevin Youkilis has played a total of 219 career games at third base, so he may not have to adjust to the position as A-Rod did. Simply put, he has been there before. However, Youkilis only played two games at third in 2010, which may or may not have an affect on him.
As far as offense goes both players are established hitters, although some critics contend that Rodriguez is on the “down-side” of his career. If 30 home runs and 125 RBIs (Rodriguez’s offensive numbers in 2010) is a “down year,” I’m sure A-Rod will take it.
Youkilis hit 19 home runs in 2010 with an average of .307 and 62 RBIs.
Catcher: Russell Martin/Jorge Posada/Jesus Montero/Austin Romine/Francisco Cervelli vs. Jarrod Saltalamacchia/Jason Varitek
I have heard it said that a catcher that can hit is a bonus.
Right now, it’s unknown who exactly will be the everyday catcher for the Yankees, but each of the candidates, whether they are on the MLB level or not, have proven that they can hit to some capacity.
Jorge Posada was named the everyday Designated Hitter, but there’s no doubt he will see some time behind the plate in what will most likely be his final year in pinstripes. Last season however, he showed that his defense is declining, as he only threw out 15 percent of base runners, allowing 72 stolen bases.
On offense last year Posada belted 18 homers and recorded 57 RBIs. His batting average was only .248, however.
A few weeks back Russell Martin admitted he “wasn’t 100 percent” but will be by the time camp breaks. Last season with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Martin hit five home runs with 26 RBIs. His batting average matched Posada’s, .248.
According to Hitting Coach Kevin Long, Jesus Montero is ready for the major leagues. Last season in Scranton-Wilkes Barre, Montero smacked 21 home runs and had 75 RBIs. Austin Romine is almost right behind Montero, as he blasted 10 minor league homers last years and knocked in 69 runs.
These two young studs are likely going to duke it out for a spot on the roster during Spring Training, so it’s anyone’s spot to win.
Francisco Cervelli is basically the odd man out here. Last year he showed inefficiency behind and at the plate. In addition to allowing 55 steals from the catcher position, he didn’t hit any home runs and drove in only 38 runs with a .271 batting average in 93 games.
As of press time, the Yankee catching job is not yet locked down.
For the Red Sox, it looks as though Jarrod Saltalamacchia will be their everyday backstop, with Captain Jason Varitek behind him. Saltalamacchia hasn’t really had the chance to prove his worth yet, as he only played in 10 games for the Red Sox last season with not many stats to look at.
Varitek only batted .232 last year in just 39 games with seven home runs and 16 RBIs. Clearly, he is nearing the end of his career. But much like Jeter, he is a born leader and he brings experience and veteran know-how to the clubhouse. This spring he will most likely be teaching the Red Sox catching prospects a thing or two about calling a ballgame behind the plate.
Yesterday I added a new piece to my seemingly never-ending Yankee memorabilia collection. I purchased the official “Winning Streak Dynasty” banner from Modells, since they were having a sale and marketing it for a relatively low price.
Just by glancing at the banner, and each of the 27 years the Yankees have won the World Series, gave me an idea: a look inside some of the World Series the Yankees have won. I figured I would explore the reasons why the Yankees won that specific year, provide some background on the regular season, examine turning points that made each fall classic special, and identify the key players who made it what it was.
I figured I would first relive a very magical season: 1998.
Regular season record: 114-48
Postseason record: 11-2
Manager: Joe Torre (3rd season)
The 1998 Yankees, who went on to set a Major League record for most games won overall in a season, began their year in a slow fashion. They lost four out of their first five games to start the year, including a 10-2 beat-down at the hands of the California Angels.
Manager Joe Torre called an “angry meeting” and aired out some of his feelings to his players. The pitchers and the position players noticed somewhat of a rift between each other; some batters were hit and felt the pitchers did not do enough to retaliate.
They eventually found their groove on April 7 against the Seattle Mariners, beating the M’s 13-7. From there, they won their next seven games and wound up ending April with a record of 17-6.
On May 17 starting pitcher David Wells tossed a perfect game at home vs. the Minnesota Twins. He retired 27 consecutive batters leading the Yanks to a 4-0 win. It was only the 15th perfect game in MLB history and only the second perfecto thrown by a Yankee.
Later in the season on Sept. 1, Wells almost threw another perfect game. Facing the Oakland Athletics, Wells was perfect through 7 2/3 innings. Needing only seven outs for another perfect game, Jason Giambi lined a single off an 0-2 count to break it up.
May 19 marked a turning point in the season. After Baltimore Orioles’ closer Armando Benitez allowed a three-run home run to Bernie Williams, he pegged Tino Martinez in between his shoulder blades. He was immediately run from the game, but the HBP practically caused a riot.
A fracas ensued and the Yanks and O’s exchanged shoves, and eventually punches.
The Yankees went on to beat the Orioles 9-5 in that game, and also swept them in that series three games to one.
A Year-Long Tear
The Yankees only lost 17 games in the summer months of July and August, while winning 42. Williams described the season as a “year-long tear,” as there really was no other way to characterize how the Bronx Bombers played.
In the ALDS, the Yankees easily handed the Texas Rangers a clean sweep. Juan Gonzalez, the player who eventually captured the 1998 A.L. MVP Award was no match for the starting pitching the Yanks had. David Wells, Andy Pettitte, and David Cone shut down the Rangers three games in a row, each notching a playoff win.
Rookie Shane Spencer, Brosius, and right field warrior Paul O’Neill led the Yanks, all hitting home runs in the first round of the postseason.
The American League Championship Series pitted the Yanks against began the defending A.L. Champs, the Cleveland Indians. New York was looking to erase their 1997 ALCS defeat and beat the Tribe 7-2 in Game One.
Game Two however was an ugly defeat for the Yanks. The game was tied up until inning number 12 when Travis Fryman laid down a bunt. Reliever Jeff Nelson threw the ball to first base, as the second baseman Knoblauch covered the bag. The ball hit Fryman in the back and Knoblauch argued with the umpire instead of retrieving the ball, which at that point was trickling down the first baseline.
Enrique Wilson scored and the Indians went on to win 4-1. The momentum carried into Game Three, as the Indians brought the lumber with them. Playing at home, sluggers Jim Thome and Manny Ramirez left he yard twice, and Mark Whiten added a homer en route to a 6-1 win over the Yanks. They pounded Pettitte while newly acquired Yankee Bartolo Colon cruised to a complete game victory.
But the Game Three loss marked the last time the Yanks would lose a playoff game in ’98.
Down two games to one, Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez took the hill, needing a clutch outing to keep the Yanks alive. Seven shutout innings later, and with some help from O’Neill (who homered) Hernandez and the Yanks picked up a 4-0 Game Four win.
Game One winner Wells took the ball again in Game Five. Now with the ALCS even at two, the Yanks rolled to a 5-3 win, under the strength of a fourth inning home run off the bat of Davis to give the Yanks a three-run lead. Kenny Lofton and Thome both hit home runs, but the Yankee bullpen was able to hold off the rest of the Cleveland lineup.
Now needing one win to get the fall classic, the Yanks came home to play Game Six. They jumped all over Charles Nagy, scoring six runs in the first three innings. Cleveland did not give up easily however, scoring five runs in the fifth, with the main blow being a grand slam from Thome.
The Yankees answered with three runs in the six, plating runs on a triple by Derek Jeter and a single by Williams. They went on to make a winner out of Cone, beating the Indians 9-5 and winning the A.L. pennant for the 35th time.
The Yankees were then headed for the World Series, set to play the San Diego Padres.
The World Series
1998 was the 94th World Series played in MLB history and the Yankees were gunning for their 24th title in franchise history. The Padres were looking for their first World Series victory, having lost the fall classic in 1984–the only other year in their history that they won the National League pennant.
In Game One, San Diego took a 5-2 lead, getting home runs from sluggers Greg Vaughn and Tony Gwynn. But going into the seventh inning, the Yanks came up with a plan. Knoblauch atoned for his ALCS blunder, smacking a game-tying three-run home run into the left field seats.
Later in the frame with the bases loaded, everything changed.
Martinez came up with the bases loaded and on a full count, blasted a grand slam home run into the upper deck tier seats in right field, giving the Yankees a 9-5 lead.
Yankee Stadium exploded.
And it was the turning point in the series, simply because the Yankees carried the momentum from that home run with them the rest of the way. In Game Two, the Yankees beat the Padres 9-3, with home runs off the bats of Williams and Jorge Posada.
Heading out to San Diego and the Yankees up two games to none, Cone took the mound in Game Three. Both teams didn’t score until the sixth, when the Padres plated three runs. The Yanks answered with two in the seventh, receiving a two-run home run from Brosius.
Trevor Hoffman was called on in the eighth inning. San Diego manager Bruce Bochy wanted his closer to nail down a six-out save leading 3-2 going into the frame. Hoffman folded however, giving up a three-run home run to Brosius, which gave New York a 5-3 lead.
Vaughn cut the lead to one with a sac fly in the bottom of the eighth, but the Padres could not rally all the way back, and the Yankees took Game Three, 5-4.
Many people argue that Game Four was just a formality, and in a lot of ways it was. The Padres were all but defeated in the ’98 World Series after Game Three, having been outscored 24-13 in the previous three games. Pettitte toed the rubber, hoping to wrap up New York’s 24th Championship.
Both teams were kept off the board until the sixth, when the Yankees plated a run on a groundout by Williams that scored Jeter. The Yankees added two more runs in the eighth, with an RBI single by Brosius and a sac fly by Ricky Ledee to score O’Neill.
The Padres made an effort to come back in the eighth, loading the bases on Nelson. However, Mariano Rivera wiggled out of the jam and pitched a scoreless ninth to clinch the World Series title.
1998 was just one of those special seasons that nothing went wrong. They have been described as “The Greatest Team Ever” being that they won 125 total games and only lost 50. Those types of seasons don’t come around very often and when they do, it’s important to remember them.
I will always remember the 1998 baseball for the Yankees–not Mark McGwire or Sammy Sosa breaking the home run records. I had more fun watching a team play every game as if it were their last than watching two guys race for a hallowed baseball record.
I think that says a lot about how exciting the Yanks were.
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!