Andy Pettitte made his long-awaited return to the Yankees yesterday, doing relatively well for a pitcher who hasn’t been in a live MLB game since Oct. 18, 2010. The veteran lefty tossed 6.2 innings and let up four earned runs on seven hits. He walked three and struck out two in a 6-2 series finale loss to the Seattle Mariners.
Pettitte really only made two mistakes – a pair of pitches he left out over the plate that Justin Smoak and Casper Wells were able to get around on, each clubbing two-run home runs. Other than showing that little bit of rust, he was his normal self.
But I’m not ready to pass any judgment on his performance. In fact, the subject of this entry has absolutely nothing to do with Pettitte.
Roughly two weeks ago I was on Twitter (might as well call me the “Titan of Twitter” these days) and one of my dear friends, Micheal Robinson, tweeted this:
Right after I read his tweet, I realized how fortunate I am to cover the game of baseball as a member of an exclusive club – the press. Last year the editor at the previous newspaper I worked for covered most of our local High School baseball teams, as I took on the task of basically becoming the girls’ lacrosse beat writer. (I did however cover a small amount of baseball last season).
This year my new editor has given me more baseball games to cover and only a select amount of lacrosse games. It’s easy to say this spring season has been a lot of fun for me.
The only thing I ever wanted to be was a baseball player. I had the opportunity to play at the High School level, but not beyond that. For awhile it bothered me, but lately it’s dawned on me that, albeit right now it’s only at the level I played at, it’s the next best thing.
I might not get to actually play the game organized, but I get to be around it as much as possible.
And as a reporter who’s covered the game at the High School level, I figured I would share some experiences and things a cub reporter can expect covering baseball; the sights, the sounds, and what you pick up on as a journalist.
So for Micheal, and everyone else aspiring to be a baseball writer, this is for you.
Baseball’s National Anthems
Of the dozen or so baseball games I’ve covered this spring, in between innings two songs are usually always blaring through the speakers: Centerfield by John Fogerty and Glory Days by Bruce Springsteen. Both of these tunes represent the spirit of the game, and fittingly, I am usually expecting to hear them at every game I go to cover.
“Balls in, Comin’ Down!!!”
The average baseball fan knows that before each inning begins, the defense is allowed to warm up. The pitcher tosses to the catcher to get his arm loose, the infielders take grounders, and the outfielders play catch to stay limber.
What the average fan may not know is the terminology used at the end of each warm-up routine. The catcher will yell out the phrase, “Balls in, comin’ down!”
The infielders and outfielders must then throw their warm-up baseballs back to the dugout, and the catcher (on the last warm-up pitch) throws the game ball down to the second baseman – as a practice throw for when a runner tries to steal second base.
If you were to attend a Yankee game, you wouldn’t be able to hear the catcher yell it out, sitting in the stands. But attending or covering a High School game, you hear it all the time, easily.
I remember first hearing the phrase in Little League, and since then, every time I go to a Yankee game I quietly utter it to myself. It’s nice hearing it again whenever I cover a baseball game; it gets me very nostalgic.
As a reporter, you need materials to cover a game. It should come as no shock that generally a pen and a notepad are required, and a good reporter usually has a recorder, perfect for postgame interviews.
A journalist must keep a good eye on the game and write down everything they see. While covering two games this season, I have been asked the same question; once by a student spectator and once by a parent:
“Are you a scout?”
Both times I just chuckled and replied, “No, I’m just a reporter, here to cover the game.”
I was later told I must have the look of a scout. But I was surprised I was asked the question, especially on more than occasion. After all, I didn’t have a radar gun, an essential tool all scouts bring to baseball games – and reporters don’t.
Just because the players I report on are in High School doesn’t mean they aren’t incredible athletes and humble kids. Last year I witnessed something at a High School baseball game that I’ll probably never forget.
On May 7, 2011 I covered an event called the Sorrentino Cup – a game played between Yorktown High School and Lakeland High School here in New York.
A senior pitcher by the name of Jonathan de Marte of Lakeland absolutely shined; he struck out 14 batters, didn’t issue a walk and took a perfect game into the last inning.
He retired the first batter and got himself into a 3-2 count on the second-to-last batter, a player named Jake Matranga. De Marte left his fastball up in the zone and Matranga blasted it, connecting for a solo home run to break up the perfect game bid.
When the ball flew over the centerfield wall, I couldn’t imagine at that moment what he was thinking; I know I was left in sheer disbelief. He was literally staring the perfecto right in the eye, and with one pitch it was over.
Afterward I interviewed him, expecting him to be down on his luck, even though his team won the game 4-1 to capture the Sorrentino Cup. I had no choice but to anticipate the worst, thinking he would be in a foul mood; losing his perfect game when he was so close to it.
Totally the opposite. He was as cool as the other side of the pillow.
De Marte had preserved his perfect game the inning before when one of the Yorktown hitters hit a weak ground ball in front of him. He pounced of the mound and made a spectacular play, almost hiking the ball through his legs like a football center to get the out.
“I’d rather lose the perfect game on a home run than on a weak ground ball like that,” de Marte said of the situation. “I’m not too upset about it, I’m just glad we won.”
Words I never thought I’d hear from him. A High School pitcher, yet as professional as Derek Jeter.
De Marte went on to win New York State’s Gatorade Player of the Year – becoming the only player in history to win the award twice. Lakeland was eliminated in the playoffs, falling short of a sectional title. I wrote a story about him winning the Gatorade award, and again, he was just as humble as he was the day he lost the perfect game.
“It’s exciting to be the first player in New York to win it twice in a row, back to back,” he said. “It’s proof that hard work pays off, but I’d trade it in to still be playing.”
In that same interview he told me Tommy John went to one of his games to see him pitch, and even went to his house after the game to give him advice on what to do should he get drafted.
I hope it happens for him.
This year de Marte is pitching at Richmond University in Virginia. Sometime down the line I look forward to hearing about which team he gets drafted to. What he showed me that day – everything from the athleticism and dominant pitching to the dignity and class after the game – he has the makings of a big leaguer.
Some of baseball’s most unbreakable records include Ted Williams batting .406 for an entire season, Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak, and Barry Bonds’ 762 home runs.
Believe it or not, High Schools keep records, too. And on May 4, at a game I was covering, a pitcher broke one.
At Byram Hills High School in Armonk, N.Y. (the same school I met Bernie Williams at) senior pitcher Scott Rose broke the school’s all-time strikeout record by fanning the last batter of the game – his 89th career strikeout to claim the record. He pitched his team to a 7-4 win over visiting Horace Greeley High School.
Funny thing was, he wasn’t even thinking about the record until the last batter.
“I didn’t have it in mind because I wasn’t getting a lot of strikeouts until that inning,” he said. “But once I got that first one in the seventh, it was definitely on my mind for the second. It was cool, but more important that we got the win.”
If Rose goes on to bigger and better things, I’ll be able to say, “He broke his High School’s strikeout record…and I covered the game.”
There is so much more that meets the eye in baseball, more so than any other sport. In 1990, Ken Griffey, Sr. and his son, Ken Griffey, Jr., became the first father and son duo to play on the same team, the Seattle Mariners. That same season, on Sept. 14, they became the first father and son tandem to hit back-to-back home runs.
Crazy to think about.
On April 28, I covered Valhalla High School’s game at Croton-Harmon, two local teams with strong baseball programs. A senior pitcher named Matt Cassinelli started for Valhalla, while his brother, Justin, started at second base.
In the top of the fourth Justin legged out an RBI triple, lacing the ball to deep left-centerfield. The 3-bagger gave Valhalla a 4-0 lead, and they wound up winning the game 4-3.
Justin wound up giving his brother Matt just enough offense to pick up the win.
I asked Matt after the game what he thought about his brother driving in the deciding run, and his response left me in hysterics.
“I think I’ll be cooking a big dinner for him tonight.”
Only in baseball would I have gotten an answer like that.
Right now, the hottest hitter in the majors is undoubtedly Josh Hamilton. Currently the Texas Rangers’ outfielder is batting .402 with 41 RBIs, and is leading the bigs in basically every offensive category.
Hamilton has 18 home runs in this young season, four of which came on the same day. On May 8 he smacked four home runs in one night, dismantling the Baltimore Orioles’ pitching.
Although none of the baseball players I’ve covered have hit four homers in a game, one player crushed two in one day.
The first game I covered this season was a game played between Horace Greeley High School and John Jay-Cross River. John Jay has a strong, well-rounded fundamental squad whereas Greeley possesses a good amount of talent, but really only one power hitter: a senior catcher named Andres Larramendi.
Larramendi will be catching for Princeton University next year, and I quickly found out why he is going to such a great college. On Opening Day he showcased his power, blasting two home runs in his first two at-bats; bombs deep over the left field wall.
I asked him about Princeton after the game, and he told me he couldn’t be more excited to go to a school with such a strong baseball program. As for his multi-home run game:
“I saw two fastballs,” he said. “I was just able to get around on them and put a good swing on them.”
Who knows. I may have covered the next Josh Hamilton that day.
Typically when a player records their first base hit, the baseball is sent back to the dugout. The team will take it, polish it off, and present it to the player as a memento. As a matter of fact, I remember in my first year playing Little League, I recorded my first hit and my first RBI in one of the last games of the season.
After we won the game, the coaches presented me with the ball, which I still have.
When I got back to the dugout my teammates were so happy for me; they practically jumped on me, whacking my helmet and patting me on the back. Such was the case on April 5 when I covered Briarcliff High School’s Diamond Classic, a tournament they host at the outset of each season.
Briarcliff’s left fielder Spencer Kulman blasted his first varsity level home run, a shot that carried deep over the left field wall. His team retrieved the baseball from behind the fence and gave it to him, but not before they came out of the dugout and congratulated him after he crossed the plate.
He was moved by their gesture.
“It was really nice for them to come out for me like that,” he said. “I’ve hit a couple home runs in practice but never in an actual game. It’s a great feeling.”
The only thing I ever wanted to do was play baseball. I am fortunate enough that, even though at a small level, I was able to.
But now, although I’m not playing anymore, I have the next best thing: being around it and involved in it as much as humanely possible. I hope that everyone who loves the game as much as I do can be as lucky as I am, covering such a wonderful sport.
At the end of April every year, football fans flock to Radio City Music Hall, bars, or friend’s houses to watch the spectacle known as the NFL Draft. College players eligible to be drafted by NFL teams, coaches, draft analysts, fans, and Commissioner Roger Goodell are all in attendance to watch the draft take place.
The MLB Draft takes place during the regular season (in June) and is hardly anything compared to the NFL Draft. This year’s draft is currently taking place this week and a number of high school players and collegiate athletes have been drafted to MLB teams.
To be honest, I had no idea the MLB Draft was happening until I saw it on Twitter. In fact, as I was writing this, ESPN acknowledged that there has barely been a word uttered about the MLB Draft, and right now it is in its third day.
There are so many reasons the MLB Draft is, in a lot of ways, meaningless.
First I will start with an obvious point: popularity. The MLB Draft does not get mainstream media attention because high school and college baseball is not nearly as recognized as high school and college football, basketball, and in some areas of the county high school and college hockey.
Simply put, more is known about prospective players in other sports than baseball.
To another point, many players who get drafted to MLB teams do not see an MLB diamond until years later. These kids get drafted but in no way make an immediate impact. In fact, some don’t make the majors at all.
31 of the first 53 picks in first round of the 1997 MLB Draft eventually made the majors. But only 13 of those 31 players appeared in more than 100 innings as of 2009.
In the sixth round of the ’97 draft, only five of the 30 players selected eventually made a big league appearance – and only two of those five (Tim Hudson and Matt Wise) have played more than 40 innings in an MLB game.
MLB drafted 64 players in the first round of the 2007 draft. At the end of the 2008 season, those 64 players – combined – totaled one inning of MLB playing time. What’s more, as of 2009, the majority of the players selected in the 2008 draft were still in the minor leagues.
Now compare that to the NFL.
Every first round pick in the ’08 NFL draft had played in the league by the end of the season.
On last night’s broadcast of the Yankees vs. Red Sox game, former Yankee Paul O’Neill made a great point when he and the rest of the commentators were discussing the MLB Draft:
“If you get drafted, you have a chance to make it,” O’Neill said.
“You go to minor league camp and find there’s 400 other guys trying to do the same thing you are.”
It’s such an excellent point. In baseball, you really are not guaranteed anything. You can be the best player on your high school or college team, but it doesn’t mean you are going to see an MLB diamond anytime soon. If a player gets drafted, they get a chance.
What the player chooses to do with the opportunity is up to them.
If a player gets drafted, tears through the minors, and demonstrates ability on and off the field, then he has a great chance at success.
However, if they falter in the minors and can’t keep up, the odds of making the majors are slim.
As far as first overall picks, there’s a little bit of a difference between baseball and football. For example, football has produced 28 players (drafted as the first overall pick) that have gone on to play in a Pro-Bowl, football’s version of the MLB All-Star Game.
12 football players who were picked first overall went on to become Hall of Famers.
21 overall first round baseball picks became All-Stars and two won Rookie of the Year.
Yet, what struck me is that two players in baseball who were drafted first overall retired without ever playing a Major League game.
That just proves the point: you can be as good as it gets, but still not make it to the show.
None of the first round overall MLB picks have gone on to the Hall of Fame, but keep in mind: the NFL Draft began in 1936. The MLB Draft only started in 1965, giving the NFL Draft 29 years on the MLB Draft, and thus more time to generate Hall of Famers.
Ken Griffey, Jr. was selected first overall (by the Seattle Mariners) in the 1987 MLB Draft, and in all likelihood, he will become the first player, taken first overall, to make it to Cooperstown. Alex Rodriguez was picked first in the 1993 draft, but with his admission of PED usage, his future in terms of the Hall of Fame is uncertain.
24 out of the 46 overall first round MLB draft picks were drafted out of college. In my mind, that demonstrates maturity. I have always maintained, whenever speaking about sports, that athletes who play in college are more mature than athletes who sign right out of high school.
Prime example: Tino Martinez, one of the more dominant players during the Yankee dynasty.
Martinez was drafted by the Boston Red Sox out of high school, but instead opted to go to the University of Tampa. His father always told him, “Anything can happen to you and you might not be able to play. Get a college education, and if they like you enough, they will draft you again.”
And that they did. But the second time he got the call it was from the Seattle Mariners. He was then traded to the Yanks, and the rest is history.
Bottom line: I respect those who play in college more than the players that sign right out of high school.
Another advantage football has over baseball in terms of the draft is the scouting combine. The NFL scouting combine takes place every year after the season ends, and coaches get the chance to see the draftees in action about two months before the draft – giving them ample time to see what their choices are before making their picks.
There is no equivalent in baseball. Scouts from different organizations go around to high schools and colleges across the country, with a book and a radar gun in hand. The scouts are the only ones who get to see the potential draft picks, the manager and coaches don’t see them first hand.
This spring season, I mostly covered high school girls’ lacrosse for the newspaper I work for. I did however get the chance to cover a baseball game last month. A Lakeland High School (Shrub Oak, NY) pitcher was two outs away from a perfect game, and he surrendered a home run.
I had the chance to cover him again last week, as he was named New York State Gatorade Player of the Year for the second year in a row. He became the first player from New York to win the award twice and on his senior night, Tommy John personally came to the game to watch him pitch.
Overall he tossed 40 innings this season and only issued five walks. He also racked up 59 strikeouts over those 40 innings and he only gave up seven earned runs all season. He finished with a 6-1 record and his ERA was 1.22.
Next year this player is going to Richmond to pitch.
Do all of his accolades mean he will get drafted?
Perhaps, but only if he keeps it up in college. He has a good chance to get a call from an MLB team and sign after his junior year.
Yet, does it mean he will see an MLB field and play Major League Baseball?
Who’s to say? Nothing is guaranteed in baseball.
Today I was flipping through the channels and came across Major League II on TBS. It made me think of all the great films out there that have portrayed the game of baseball on the big screen.
There have been so many baseball motion pictures that in Cooperstown, at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, there is an exhibit dedicated solely to baseball movies. I decided to write in my top 10 favorite baseball flicks. I know many people have written these already, but I figured to throw in my favorite movies.
10) Angels in the Outfield
I know, it’s not the strongest of movies, but Roger and JP love the game. They are both separated from their parents and turn to the greatest game in the world for support. With a little divine intervention from Christopher Lloyd, real Angels help the Anaheim Angels win. A great movie for the family.
9) Little Big League
Another one for the younger audience, but still a great picture. Billy Heywood’s grandfather passes away, but leaves him a fortune: the Minnesota Twins!
Heywood becomes manager of the team and guides them to a winning season. There are so many cameos of the greatest players at the time: Ken Griffey, Jr., Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez, Paul O’Neill, Randy Johnson, and Lou Piniella to name a few. Pretty decent flick that portrays our favorite sport.
8) The Benchwarmers
This movie kind of got a bad rap, but I was one of the ones that liked it. The overall theme of the movie was important: bullying is wrong.
I especially loved the fact that director Dennis Dugan used baseball as a means to stop the bullying and have the little leaguers work together. Plus, that Stadium they built was impressive; a touch of the Yankee Stadium frieze, Fenway’s Green Monster, and the ivy from Wrigley Field.
The geeks may have lost the final game in the movie, but at heart, they really won.
7) Rookie of the Year
Henry Rowengartner. He was living my dream as a kid pitching in the big leagues. An accident somehow made his velocity go up, and he was picked to pitch for the Chicago Cubs.
As a kid, I always wanted to have an accident so I could throw harder, but my parents and coaches told me accidents don’t make you throw harder. This will always be a great baseball movie in my book.
6) Major League
Not only was this one of the best baseball movies I’ve seen, it was by far one of the funniest. I loved Bob Uecker’s quote: “One hit?! All we have is one God damned hit?!” “You can’t say that we’re on the air! Well, nobody’s listening anyway.”
All the characters are colorful, from Ricky Vaughn to Willie Mays Hayes. The story is great, and after viewing this film, I think the Indians will forever be in Cleveland, even if some stuffy owner’s wife wants to move the team…
I gained a new level of respect for Billy Crystal after I saw this movie. Now I know it’s about the Yankees, and I want to be un-biased, but this was an amazing picture. The actors playing Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle (Barry Pepper and Thomas Jane, respectively) did such a masterful job of portraying their feelings during the roller coaster ride that was the 1961 season.
It’s not easy chasing the greatest record in baseball, and at the film’s end, I truly feel that Maris is the rightful single season Home Run King. After going through death threats, losing his hair out of stress, and the media making his life a living hell, Maris deserves the right to be called the King.
4) For Love of the Game
I saw this movie with my uncle and my cousin the weekend it opened. This was more of a love story, but it is such a touching movie.
The last place Detroit Tigers play the Yankees with washed-up Billy Chapel (Kevin Costner) on the mound. As Chapel pitches, he reflects on his love life with Jane Aubrey (Kelly Preston). He notices after seven innings that he’s pitching a perfect game against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium on the final game of the regular season.
Vin Scully’s quote still gives me goosebumps: “Tonight, Billy Chapel will take the walk to the loneliest spot in the world, the pitching mound at Yankee Stadium to use that achy arm to push the sun back into the sky and give us one more day of summer.”
When he finally records the last out and notches the perfecto, Scully says, “The Cathedral of Yankee Stadium belongs to a Chapel.” If you are a guy and love baseball, watch this movie with your girlfriend. There’s something there for both of you.
3) The Rookie
High School baseball coach Jim Morris (Dennis Quaid) tries his luck and makes it to the majors after his high school team makes the championship. It gives everyone hope that you can still fulfill your dreams, no matter how old you are.
After playing for the Durham Bulls, Morris makes it to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, and pitches in a game against the Texas Rangers in Arlington. His players are there in the nosebleeds to root him on. This is a movie that will most likely stand the test of time, and will be watched for a long time to come.
2) Bull Durham
This movie came out exactly a year after I was born. Costner plays Crash Davis, who is an aging catcher called up to tutor rookie pitcher “Nuke” LaLoosh. Unfortunately for them, they are both romantically involved with a woman which makes a love triangle.
I learned something from this movie. 108 beads in a rosary, 108 stitches in a baseball. Coincidence? I think not. The “I believe in” speech that Davis gives is also gold. A little harsh, but brutally honest, which makes it classic. This will always be revered as one of the greatest baseball movie of all-time. They’ll be talking about Bull Durham for years to come.
1) Field of Dreams
Costner again. He must love the game. Anyone who has seen this movie knows how great it is. Ray Kinsella (Costner) interprets voices to build a baseball field on his farm. When he does, the Chicago Black Sox, or at least their ghosts, come to play there.
Who wouldn’t want to build a diamond and see their favorite players come out and play there? If I could pick a team, I would build my field and have the 1998 Yankees play on it. Kinsella’s line, “I’m pitching to Shoeless Joe Jackson…” speaks volumes. If I had it my way, it’d be, “I’m pitching to Tino Martinez…” being that he was favorite player on the ’98 Yanks. This movie is the best of the best.
According to the Internet Movie Database, this movie ranks a 7.6 out of a possible 10. I could easily rank this film 10 out of 10. After this movie is over, go play catch with your dad. You need to. It is one of the most engrossing films I’ve ever seen.
There you have it. My top 10 baseball flicks. There are so many other great ones, but this is just my opinion. If anyone would like to share their favorite baseball movies, feel free to comment!
As the Major League Baseball non-waivers trade deadline rapidly approaches–tomorrow afternoon at 4:00–Alex Rodriguez continues his chase for 600 home runs.
The Yankees did not panic when Andy Pettitte hurt his groin and went to the disabled list. They first allowed Sergio Mitre to take Pettitte’s place in the rotation, a move that did not pay off. On July 24 Mitre lost to the Kansas City Royals, tossing 4 1/3 innings and giving up five earned runs on seven hits.
Manager Joe Girardi said Mitre “wasn’t stretched out enough to be starting.”
Yesterday Dustin Moseley took the ball for Pettitte and put on quite a performance. The 28 year-old right hander pitched six innings of solid ball. He gave up one run and scattered four hits while walking two batters and striking out four. For his effort he earned himself a win over the Cleveland Indians.
Not bad for a spot start. I think he earned himself another start on Tuesday vs. Toronto.
In a blog post last week I said the Yankees need another arm, but if Moseley can handle the load and pitch the way he did last night, the Yanks may not need one. I suggested Dan Haren, but he has already been traded to the Los Angeles Angels. (He’s also already injured, as he was hit on the right forearm with a comeback line drive, but that’s another story for another time)
It doesn’t seem as if the Yankees are interested in Brian Bannister, the second hurler I pointed out as a possible target for the Bronx Bombers. Bannister was beaten by the Yankees on July 23, a game in which he only pitched 4 2/3 innings. He was touched up for four earned runs on six hits; he walked two batters and struck out five.
His season record fell to 7-9, but I still think he has potential. If he was on a team that gave him more run support (like the Yankees) I have a feeling his numbers would be a lot better.
It doesn’t look as though the Yankees are seeking any pitching help. I am however hearing a lot of yapping about “adding another bat” and the name that keeps popping up is Adam Dunn, the Washington Nationals’ first baseman. He would be a good addition to the team. Being a power-hitting lefty, Dunn could certainly use the short porch in Yankee Stadium to his advantage.
According to Buster Olney of ESPN, the two teams that are interested in Dunn are the Yankees and their opponent for this weekend, the Tampa Bay Rays. Olney said that each team is trying to make sure the other team doesn’t land Dunn, as they are in a heated race for the American League Eastern Division.
This morning, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reported that the Yankees “are not out on Dunn, that they may be using negotiation tactics to try and get him, and to not count them out on any player.”
Will he be traded to New York before tomorrow afternoon at 4:00? At the moment, nothing is etched in stone. It could happen and I would like to see it happen, but if it doesn’t, then it’s not a huge blow to the Yankees. The Bronx Bombers still have the best record in the majors without Dunn; getting him can only help and not getting him can’t hurt.
So do the Yankees really need to make a huge trade at all?
Well….any sort of minor trade can also help them. Consider last year’s trade for Jerry Hairston, Jr. Was he the best hitter on the team? No. Was he a Gold-Glove caliber fielder? Probably not. But did he do little things to help the team win and make a difference when it mattered?
Absolutely. He had that utility quality about himself, and he was a good pickup right before the deadline last year. After all, he did score the winning run in Game Two of the American League Championship Series. And as I understand, he is having a decent season over in San Diego for the N.L. West-leading Padres.
Even if the Yanks make a small trade a la the Hairston swap last year, it could make a world of difference come October.
As for A-Rod…
The Yankees’ third baseman clubbed his 599th career home run on Thursday July 22 vs. Kansas City. After a week, he has failed to put one in the seats and join the exclusive 600 Club–a club only Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Willy Mays, Ken Griffey, Jr., and Sammy Sosa are currently members of.
Rodriguez was 4-for-21 in the last four games vs. Cleveland and overall is 9-for-30 since smacking number 599 last Thursday. He has gone 34 plate appearances without a round-tripper and seems to be pressing just a little bit.
It’s almost as if he is going through the same thing he went through in 2007 before reaching 500 home runs. Rodriguez had to wait eight days and 28 at-bats to belt number 500, so he certainly knows how it feels.
If he were to reach 600 homers this weekend, it wouldn’t be the first time Rodriguez has hit a meaningful home run at Tropicana Field. On Oct. 4 of last season, Rodriguez clobbered two home runs in the same inning, one of which was hit off tonight’s starter Wade Davis. The other homer was a grand slam to give him 30 home runs and 100 RBIs for the year.
Talk about a hitting show.
This season, Rodriguez has not left the yard at Tropicana Field, but is hitting .417 with three RBIs and three runs scored. Obviously his chances to hit 600 are good this weekend, so long as he doesn’t press and maintains an easy, fluid swing.
I noticed last night when Jess Todd struck him out swinging in the eighth inning, A-Rod looked like he wanted to hit a 15-run home run. He swung too early and he looks like he is trying too hard. If he eases up and stops pushing (which he is fully capable of doing) he will reach the milestone and get it over with.
Once again, all eyes on A-Rod this weekend.
I’d like to take the time and thank MLBlogs for featuring Yankee Yapping on their main page! I came across this and enjoyed the little write-up they did on me.
This was very cool and I do hope to write for MLB.com sometime in the NEAR future!
Just to clarify something, however; I just graduated from Mercy College and there will only be one more story I am submitting to my school’s newspaper–that would be a story on Brian Sweeney, who pitched for Mercy when he attended the school.
I am taking my interview, which I conducted here on MLBlogs, and turning it into a feature article for the school paper. Even though I graduated, I am still going to use it for a clip to put into my portfolio. That will be my last article as Sports Editor.
Once again, thanks MLB.com for the write-up and the exposure. I hope to be working for you very soon!!! 😉
We are just about one month into the young Major League Baseball season and already one New York Yankee is having a tremendous year. Not just a tremendous year, though. A year worthy of the Most Valuable Player Award and a batting title.
I am of course speaking about the red-hot Robinson Cano, who at the end of the season could be wearing many crowns. In fact, I would not be surprised if he wins Player of the Month for April, undoubtedly just the first of his many accomplishments this season.
The young second baseman is absolutely locked in, going 16 for his last 24.
En route to the Yankees’ 4-0 win over the Baltimore Orioles tonight, he was 3-for-4 with two home runs, a double, two RBIs, and three runs scored. Cano is currently on an eight-game hitting streak and is showing no signs of slowing down.
He is currently leading the Yankee team in practically every hitting category, and at press time is sporting an average of .407. Tonight marked the sixth time in his career he has gone deep twice in one game.
If you were to touch the hem of Cano’s jersey right now, you would get burned.
Just looking at his swing and everything he is doing at the plate right now, Cano is making me think of (a young) Ken Griffey, Jr. His easy swing and effortless follow-through resembles that of Griffey’s.
Comparing Cano to a hitter of Griffey’s caliber might seem bold, but it’s the truth. Back in the day, Griffey could just put on a hitting show night after night, and that’s exactly where Cano is at the moment. He is exciting everyone and is the talk of every game.
Maybe his new nickname should be “Cano: The Kid 2.0.”
Going 5-4 on their nine-game road trip, the Yankees will now head home to play the Chicago White Sox for the first three games on their six-game home stand. On the road, Cano pounded out 17 hits and knocked in a total of seven runs.
He may not want to leave the road as he is currently raking, but something tells me he will continue to do just fine hitting at Yankee Stadium. After all, his average at home is .318, so I’m reasonably sure he will have no problem coming home.
But it isn’t just about his hitting.
Cano is playing some of the greatest defense I have ever seen from a second baseman. He is, without question, the best second baseman in the American League, maybe in the entire league. He proved that tonight.
Making a spectacular play in the field, Cano robbed Nolan Reimold of a base hit. He ranged all the way over to the left side of the second base bag, and tossing an off balance throw, nailed Reimold at first base for an out. Cano was actually on the outfield grass when he made the throw.
That play made even Derek Jeter drop his jaw. Cano is quite the defender.
Helping Cano out tonight was A.J. Burnett, who tossed eight innings of shutout ball. The lanky right-hander surrendered no runs on just three hits. He issued only one walk and struck out four.
Burnett, a veteran pitcher who has been in the league since 1999, improved his record to 3-0. 2010 is the best start he has ever gotten off to, as he has never begun a season with a record of 3-0.
Dr. Jekyll-Burnett showed up tonight and it was just what the Yanks needed to take the series from the O’s, two games to one.
Burnett also improved his lifetime record to 10-2 against the Orioles and remains undefeated at 5-0 in Camden Yards. He seems to love to pitch against Baltimore.
I can once again say: Burnett was dealing like he was playing blackjack in Vegas. (My new favorite analogy every time a Yankee hurler tosses a great game)
A tip of the cap also goes to Marcus Thames, who had three hits and knocked in a run in the game. Alex Rodriguez also knocked in Derek Jeter with a sacrifice fly in the first inning to get the Yankees on the board.
However the real story of the night: Cano and his tear. Throw a bucket of water on him right now and he would probably still be the hottest hitter in baseball.
There’s a reason he is my favorite Yankee. I have been saying for months what a great player Cano really is. And tonight just proved my point.
Greetings Yankee fans!
And welcome to the 12th installment of Yankee Yapping.
Away we go!
My thoughts on…
The State of the Yankees
The state of the Yankees has recently been in a state of inconsistent flux.
Coming off two losses (out of three games) to the Orioles, the Yankees looked ready to play and defeated the Angels 5-3 in a make-up game Monday night. It was certainly a step up from how they did right before the All-Star break in Anaheim. Nice work from Nick Swisher, who continues to look very good on the offensive side of the field.
He hit his 27th home run of the season along with collecting his 79th RBI of the year. Swisher’s recent success was a topic of last week’s blog and like I said last week, he’s gone above and beyond his expectations.
Either way, it was good to see the Yankees beat a potential ALCS opponent and it was hopefully a good omen in beating the Halos’ best pitcher this year, Jered Weaver. I hope the Yankees can do it again tonight, tomorrow, and Wednesday against the Angels and if they meet in playoffs, I hope that also goes the Yankees’ way.
The Angels have not been very kind to the Yankees in playoffs past, eliminating them in the ALDS in 2002 and 2005. If they meet this year I really think things will be interesting.
Following the win over LA of Anaheim, the Yankees dropped a 10-4 decision to the Toronto Blue Jays in the first of their two-game series. I really think the Yankees just got very lazy in this game. There was no offense and Sergio Mitre was blown out along with the entire bullpen.
The Yankees gave up five homers to the Jays last Tuesday. If that doesn’t say sloppy, I don’t know what does. Of course Roy Halladay once again held down the Bombers, tossing six innings while nailing down six strikeouts. He is now 18-6 with a 2.84 ERA lifetime against the Yanks. Now that’s ownage.
In game two against the Jays, things were looking not-so-good before the eighth inning. Down 4-2, Hideki Matsui once again proved his resurgence as he blasted a game-tying two-run homer to keep the Yankees in the game.
But it was rookie Francisco Cervelli’s turn to shine on; he belted the game-winning single in the bottom of the ninth to beat the Jays. I was so happy for him–his first big league walk-off hit. Cervelli looked elated and could hardly speak before A.J. Burnett pied him in the face.
I could only smile as I watched the Yanks mob Cervelli. And I only had one thing to say as Cervelli was being mobbed and pied: “Thanks, rookie.”
Then we set out for the west coast, and I must say, there was a lot of good and a lot of bad to come out of Friday night’s pitcher’s duel in Seattle.
First the good: Burnett gave the Yankees a good game. He pitched seven innings and gave up only one earned run on seven hits. He walked three and struck out six, so I’ll take the quality start. He also picked off Ichiro twice. Nice work on Burnett’s part. If he continues to pitch like that, the Yankees are in good shape.
I was also pleased with Phil Hughes, who recorded his 17th hold of the year with a scoreless eighth inning. In these types of close games it’s refreshing to know we have Hughes in our bullpen. Nice work.
It’s also good to know the Yankees were able to reach base and pound out eight hits against a Cy Young caliber pitcher. Felix Hernandez tossed a complete game and is in the running for the American League Cy Young award. If the Bombers have to face an ace in the playoffs, they have demonstrated the ability to hit them.
Now onto the bad, which was basically the ending of Friday’s game.
Up 2-1 in the bottom of the ninth with two outs, Mariano Rivera made two mistakes; two pitches that cost the Yankees the game. He left two pitches out over the plate that Mike Sweeney and Ichiro both crushed, and as a result, the Yankees lost 3-2.
I, for one, was stunned. I could not believe Rivera had blown that save. It was the first time since April 24 in Boston that he had blown a save and only his second blown save of 2009.
Rivera has been lights out for the Yankees, so I am certainly willing to forgive him for that hiccup; it’s probably better he got that out of his system now rather than the playoffs.
But he did lose the game. Burnett pitched well, Hughes pitched well, there was no margin for error, and Rivera blew it. However, the Yankees could have scored some more for him, as they only posted two runs. While it was good they were able to pound out hits, they struggled to score runs.
So we saw good and bad in Friday’s loss. Saturday night was another story.
CC Sabathia went out and dominated, just like he has all year and especially since the All-Star break. The Yankee ace went seven strong innings and gave up an unearned run on just four hits. He walked two and fanned eight. Yankees 10, Mariners 1.
I really enjoy watching Sabathia. This is exactly why the Yanks got him–to just shut the other teams down. He is a soldier, he is a horse, and he has been as advertised. And I love it. Sabathia leads the American League with 18 wins and 220.1 innings pitched.
As everyone knows, (like Hernandez) he’ll be in serious consideration for the AL Cy Young Award. But Sabathia could also win 20 games this year. He’s got a chance at it, anyway.
Mark Teixeira provided the Yankees with enough offense, almost hitting for the cycle. He needed a double, but instead he smacked his second home run of the game and 37th of the year. Teixeira leads the league in RBIs with 118 and has done some amazing things to help the Yanks win this year. He will certainly get some Most Valuable Player Award consideration.
It’s obvious the Yankees could be taking home a lot of hardware this year, that’s for sure. You can think about every opportunity for them to attain individual accolades: Sabathia for the Cy Young Award, Teixeira and Derek Jeter for the MVP, and there are multiple players who could win Gold Glove and Silver Slugger Awards.
And of course they collectively want the big one: a World Series ring.
I also want to point out Matsui. He hit his 26th home run of 2009 in Saturday’s win and set a new team record. He now has the most home runs by a designated hitter since Don Baylor in 1984. Nicely done, Matsui; you can still provide a huge threat at the plate and you have proven me wrong.
Finally on Sunday it was Joba Chamberlain’s turn to try and finish off the Mariners. He did not succeed. The Yankees managed only one run, Chamberlain was lit up for seven runs in three innings, and the Bombers lost, 7-1.
This past week has basically been “hot-cold.” There were games the Yanks went out and played hard and looked consistent. Then there were games like yesterday where they looked completely lost.
To me, they seemed to get complacent. They own the best record in the majors, they are inevitably going to the playoffs, and they have played the most consistent baseball to this point. But it just looks like they are becoming a little too easy-going and are not playing well as a result.
With only 12 games left, the Yanks will need to win just one game to clinch a playoff spot. The magic number remains at nine for the AL East; any number of combined Yankee wins and Boston losses that add up to nine means the Yankees will win the AL East.
This next week will tell us a story: three against the Angels and three against the rival Red Sox. The test of toughness continues for the Yankees. We’ll see if they answer accordingly.
Tuesday Night Fight
It’s not that I condone fighting or brawls of any kind. I mean, I like pro wrestling just as much as the next guy, but Tuesday night went beyond the likes of the WWE or UFC.
Toronto’s Edwin Encarnacion and Aaron Hill were both hit by pitches. The Blue Jays obviously took exception to it and threw behind Yankee catcher Jorge Posada. An exchange of words took place and the benches were cleared…and warned.
I think Posada took a little bit of a cheap shot when he scored and elbowed Jays’ reliever Jesse Carlson on the way to the dugout. It was unnecessary, but the Yankees and Jays got into a melee.
The fighting was unfortunate, but it was historical; it was the first Bronx Bomber brawl in the new Stadium. I’m sure there will be more fights to come in future years, but in hindsight it was probably not a good thing.
Posada was suspended three games for the fracas. It gave Cervelli a chance to win the game on Wednesday, but still it doesn’t look good for the team.
On the positive side of the coin, however, I think fights can sometimes ignite teams. The Yankees were losing pretty bad, and as noted before, were playing inconsistently. I feel that the fight may have energized them a little bit and gave them incentive to not lay down the next day.
I will say this, though: on May 19, 1998 the Yanks were involved in a real, knock-down drag-out scuffle with the Baltimore Orioles. Tino Martinez had been hit with a pitch by Armando Benitez right between the shoulder blades. There was thought to be intent and the Yankees responded with violence.
Both benches cleared, the bullpens emptied, and there were a number of players exchanging words and punches. I’ll probably never forget Ken Singleton’s words while calling the game: “You do NOT throw at Tino Martinez!!!”
Former Yankee Bernie Williams said of the 1998 brawl, “We (the Yankees) really banded together like a group of brothers during that fight.”
That aspect of the fighting I admire; if the Yankees can find it to keep themselves together while fighting, I say it’s good. Whatever holds the team together and motivates them to win, I like.
Violence is not always the answer, but I think the Yankees did the right thing in standing up for themselves. We haven’t seen that from them in awhile.
Joba Chamberlain’s Situation
I was happy on Monday with Joba Chamberlain’s outing. He gave up a home run to Vladimir Guerrero, but other than that he looked pretty solid, for what it was worth.
Four innings, one run, four hits, no walks, two strikeouts on Monday vs. the Angels. Alright, acceptable. I still think they should have allowed him to pitch more innings, but the “Joba rules” prohibited that.
But his start yesterday in Seattle was unacceptable. In terms of his individual numbers from Sunday, Chamberlain only went three innings and allowed seven earned runs. He also walked three and only struck out two.
After the game, the press questioned how he felt about his outing. He said it was embarrassing and not being able to pick up his team was frustrating. It’s frustrating to watch as a fan, too.
I didn’t like what Chamberlain said about his overall feeling. He said if you kick him, he’ll get right back up and keep moving, in terms of his confidence. That’s a great thing for him. But he also said he feels fine and that his overall attitude about his pitching is fine.
But it’s not fine.
Earlier in the year David Cone of the YES Network said Chamberlain needs to take more responsibility for what he does. For the most part he has; he said flat-out, “I was embarrassed and I let them down.” But he still wouldn’t say how inconsistent he has been and how he’s planning on fixing it.
I don’t know what the plan is for Chamberlain in terms of the post-season. I say he should not pitch in the rotation, at least not in round one. If they want to use him, use him from the bullpen or long relief if need be.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again–the rules just threw him off course. His numbers were solid for the first four games after the All-Star break. They put him on the new rules and he went downhill.
Last week I blogged about each and every starter in the Yankee rotation. I said I was worried about most of them (save for CC Sabathia) Burnett impressed me on Friday and as long as he can keep pitching that way, I feel he’ll be fine. Burnett even said after the game that he felt good and is going to try and mimic that performance the rest of the way.
So I’m tending to worry less about Burnett at the moment.
As for Andy Pettitte, I am concerned about his shoulder but we’ll see how he does tonight. It was a wise move for Joe Girardi to skip him over because he was injured. Good move, let’s just hope his problem with his shoulder does not affect him in the long run.
But Chamberlain–I just don’t know anymore. I think most Yankee fans are tired of the rules and what they have done with him. It’s ridiculous, if you ask me.
Yet the bottom line is that I still believe in Joba Chamberlain. He’s gone through a lot this season–good and bad–but I still think he needs time to grow. Everyone expected him to be lights out every time he took the mound, but in reality it just doesn’t go that way. It’s not how life as a young pitcher works.
I still think the rules are just so unimportant and they should just let him pitch. I mean, no one seemed to say anything about his innings limit or pitch count when Chamberlain out-dueled Josh Beckett at Fenway Park in July of last year. And his critics didn’t say anything negative about him when he fanned nine Red Sox that night, either.
It’s amazing how some of the fans forget some of the better moments Chamberlain has enjoyed while he’s struggling. Yes, he’s scuffling now, but fans have to remember some of his better games, too, and what he is capable of.
Ken Griffey, Jr.
It is defined as a player who has a reputation for being able to defeat the New York Yankees on a regular basis. If anyone falls under the category of “Yankee Killer,” it’s Ken Griffey, Jr.
On Sunday, “the kid” smacked a double and a home run while recording four RBIs against Joba Chamberlain en route to the Mariners’ 7-1 win over the Bombers. It was just like the good old days for Junior.
In his lifetime Griffey now has 36 home runs against the Yankees with 101 RBIs and a batting average over .300. To me that’s not just a series of isolated incidents. That’s ownage over the Yankees.
I always liked him. In fact, when I was younger, every year before the start of each season I would try and map out in my head which players the Yankees could trade away to get Griffey. I wanted him to play in pinstripes every year, it seemed.
I didn’t realize until July 7, 2007 that Griffey’s dad, Ken Griffey, Sr., was a Yankee during his playing days. When I attended Old Timer’s Day that year, they announced his father by saying, “before there was junior, there was Ken Griffey, Sr.!”
I remember looking up at the diamond vision screen and just saying to myself, “WOW. I had no idea he used to be a Yankee…and Junior is a spittin’ image of him; they look so much alike!” That day was pretty special. I was able to see Griffey, Sr. during the Old Timers’ festivities.
I only had the pleasure of seeing Griffey, Jr. play once. It was August 27, 1999 at the original Yankee Stadium. He was hated back in those days by the Yankee faithful and I mean hated. In fact, the fans in the bleachers despised Griffey so much that they chucked batteries at him (while he was playing centerfield) during that game.
He didn’t muster any notable offense that night and neither did the rest of the team; Roger Clemens shut out the M’s and the Yankees won, 8-0.
I think they hated him because he was so good. He was one of the best all-around players in the game at the time, if not the best. And I wanted him on the Yankees so bad. But the more I have thought about it over the years, the more I realize that the Yankees never needed Griffey to win.
The secret to the Yankees’ success in the late 1990s was that there were no superstars; the Yankees had no players that hit over 40 home runs and drove in over 130 RBIs in a single season. They created their own ways of winning, simply by going on almost a rotation.
One game it might be Bernie Williams who produced, the next night it could be Derek Jeter. Maybe the game after it was Tino Martinez or Scott Brosius or Paul O’Neill. They didn’t need the big stick to get it done and win ballgames; they did it without an overwhelming show of sheer power.
That was the formula that shaped the Yankee Dynasty of the late 90s. For as good as the Mariners were with players like Griffey, Alex Rodriguez, Jay Buhner, and Edgar Martinez (and so on) the Yankees were just better.
My heart was overjoyed when Griffey left Seattle for Cincinnati after the 1999 season. No more Yankee killer, I thought. As fate would have it though, the Reds came to the Bronx to play the Yankees last year, in June 2008, during inter-league play.
Griffey homered off Andy Pettitte and the New York crowd gave him a standing ovation. I think the Yankee fans recognized that Griffey is a player who has just been outstanding against the Yankees throughout his whole career–and he can still get it done in the twilight of his career. It was his final go-round in the old Stadium where he enjoyed a good amount of success, so they cheered for him. A very respectful gesture, I must say.
Griffey returned to Seattle (as everyone knows) for this year, 2009. “The kid” took Pettitte deep again on July 1, crushing a solo shot in the sixth inning. I’m not sure the fans gave him such a rousing welcome as they did in 2008, but he still showed he can get it done even at the age of 39.
That round-tripper marked the 44th MLB Park Griffey has homered out of.
It was noted during this past weekend’s broadcast that Griffey wants to come back and play in 2010. He’ll be 40 years old on Nov. 21, but personally I’d love to see him back for one more year. If he remains with the Mariners, I’d even buy a ticket when they come to the Bronx next year in the hopes of seeing Griffey play one last time.
With 627 career home runs, the title of “Yankee Killer,” and such remarkable stats all-around, Griffey will definitely be in the Hall of Fame someday. I even think that if he had maintained his health, he would be the all-time home runs leader right now.
And I am privileged to say that I saw him play during the best years of his career. I just hope if he plays next year, the Yankees can manage to hold him down. That’s highly unlikely, however.
Well that does it for this week’s blog. 12 games left in the regular season, it’s almost playoff time, and the Yankees are staring a post-season berth in the eye.
I’ll be back next week with more topics, highlights, and analysis.
Until then, Go Yankees!!!