These past few days have been reminiscent of another era.
The old days of Roger Clemens beaning Mike Piazza in the head came to mind. I couldn’t get the image of Piazza standing up to Clemens after he chucked that hunk of broken bat at him during the 2000 World Series. Even my personal memory of attending the very first Subway Series at Yankee Stadium during the regular season in 1997 echoed through my brain. The battle for bragging rights in New York was on this past weekend.
And for the first time in quite a few years, this Yankee fan felt it.
Whether it was in the Poughkeepsie Journal newsroom, listening to sports talk radio in the car, or going on Facebook and Twitter, talk of the showdown between the Yankees and Mets in the Bronx this past weekend dominated my life. Mostly I was forced to listen to how the Mets had won 11 straight games entering the Subway Series, how they are currently the team to beat and how Matt Harvey is the second coming of Jesus Christ.
Believe me, I took it all.
What most folks who talked up the Mets might have overlooked was the fact that, prior to the Subway Series, the Yankees had won seven of 10 on the road. They had taken one from the Baltimore Orioles, swept the Tampa Bay Rays in three games and took three of four from the Detroit Tigers.
Perhaps the hot start the Mets got off to was more impressive, and thus they got a little more ink than the Yankees.
But there the Yankees were on Friday to remind everyone who they are. In particular, Mark Teixeira and Michael Pineda made their presence felt. Teixeira clubbed two home runs of Jacob deGrom, the reigning National League Rookie of the Year, while Pineda tossed 7 2/3 strong innings, giving up one run to the Mets on five hits. Pineda also struck out seven and kept the ball around the plate, walking just one batter.
It brought the Mets’ winning streak to a screeching halt, though it didn’t stop the orange and blue loyalists from reminding the pinstripers that Harvey (excuse me, Jesus Christ) was starting the following day.
Yet, their yapping was backed up and Harvey delivered Saturday. The ace silenced the Yankee bats, giving up just two runs on five hits over 8 2/3 innings. Harvey struck out seven Yankees and walked two en route to his fourth win of the season, proving that yes, he has a bright future and is a bona fide stud.
That brought us to Sunday: The rubber game. The game that decided who got the bragging rights until September, when the Yankees and Mets hook up at Citi Field.
For the first time in a long time, I really wanted the Yankees to win this game. Not that I don’t want them to win any other games; in fact, I want them to win every game, like most passionate fans.
This one, however, I truly wanted. The voices of the trash talk that was spoken, posted and tweeted at me by Mets fans ringed over and over, almost as if they were taunting me. That feeling was only fueled when ESPN opened its broadcast with a shot of a Mets fan holding a sign that read “A-Rod wears Matt Harvey underwear.”
Cute. But, not really that creative. I’m almost certain I heard that one back in 2005, when Chuck Norris “Facts” were a thing.
Alex Rodriguez, me and the Yanks got the last laugh, as it was. Rodriguez homered off Mets starter Jonathan Niese, his 659th career tater, as he continues to creep up on Willie Mays for fourth place on Major League Baseball’s all-time home runs list. Rodriguez finished the series finale 2 for 4 with two RBI and a run scored.
Now, the Empire State Building is shining in Yankee colors because the Bombers took the series.
The feeling is great, I’ll admit — not just the feeling of the Yankees winning, but the feeling of caring about the Subway Series again. Getting caught up in the rivalry was, in a word, fun this weekend. It’s what baseball is all about.
Maybe the players got wrapped up in it, too. It’s possible. Rodriguez even told the press after the game, “The buzz was incredible. I just felt a lot of energy in the building. It was fun … To feel that energy, it was cool.”
Whomever the social media directors are for both clubs also got enveloped in the cross-town rivalry.
Which, if I’m not mistaken, is a first.
The Mets are a team that, for at least right now, is competitive. Like 2000, the year they captured the National League pennant and faced off with the Yankees in the World Series, they have good players. More specifically the Mets have solid, young pitchers, and the organization probably feels this is the time to turn it around and return to relevance.
I can say for sure, that’s how Mets fans feel, and in a lot of ways they have the right to feel that way.
At the same time, it’s still April and there are still 143 games remaining on the schedule. Plus, the Mets clearly have other facets of their game to work on. Case and point, their defense. A team usually cannot commit four errors in a game and expect to win.
I can only hope that when September rolls around and the Yankees go to Flushing, it’s just as competitive and the rivalry is once again at a peak.
Not to mention if both the Yanks (11-8) and Mets (14-5) are racing towards a division pennant or a playoff berth when they next meet, it’ll be even more riveting.
The Yankees got some good news this week and some bad news.
The good? Crafty veteran Andy Pettitte and the greatest closer of all-time Mariano Rivera will indeed be pitching in the Bronx next season, the Yanks inking one-year deals with both hurlers. Pettitte was signed for $12 million for 2013 while Rivera was locked up for $10 million.
For one more year, the Bronx Bombers will be treated with each pitcher’s services. Yes, good.
The bad news? The Yankees lost their starting catcher, Russell Martin, to free agency last night. Martin agreed to terms with the Pittsburgh Pirates; a deal worth two years, $17 million.
Just like that, the Bronx Bombers are without a viable starting catcher.
It was quite surprising the Yankees didn’t at least pursue Martin in free agency, coming off a year in which he set a career-high in home runs with 21. His batting average (.211) may have been the lowest of his career, but the subpar BA shouldn’t have completely ruined his chances of returning.
Last year Pettitte came back on a dime, only signing for $2.5 million. The 40-year-old lefty was injured most of last season with a fractured ankle, as was the 43-year-old Rivera – who as we all know tore his ACL shagging fly balls on the warning track in Kansas City in May.
Martin, only 29 (although will be 30 on Feb. 15), (in this writer’s opinion) should have, at the very least, been offered something. Perhaps the Yanks could have given Pettitte and Rivera a little less – being that they’ll only be around for one more year, anyway – and reached out to the catcher for a deal.
Now, along with the likelihood of right fielder Nick Swisher not making a comeback and the Yankees needing to fill the void in the corner outfield spot, they will now need to seek an everyday backstop – which they’ll most likely be hard-pressed to do.
Right now their options include signing A.J. Pierzynski, a 35-year-old (36 on Dec. 30) with a history of not being the “nicest kid in class,” so-to-speak; striking a deal with Mike Napoli, the 31-year-old free agent who put up numbers somewhat similar to Martin’s in 2012 (.224 BA, 24 HR, 56 RBI); or just using Chris Stewart, Francisco Cervelli, and/or Austin Romine in 2013.
Stewart served as Martin’s backup last season, mostly working as CC Sabathia’s personal catcher, while Cervelli spent almost the entire season in the minors – not to mention Cervelli has suffered a number of concussions over the course of his young career. Romine also has an injury history and has not played a full Triple-A season his entire career.
Now the course of action is up to the Yankees’ front office; a catcher possibly on the Yankees’ wish list. In the meantime, I’d like to look back on a few of Martin’s best moments in pinstripes. Although he was only a Bomber for two years, he provided the team with jolts and boosts to make them a better ballclub in 2011 and 2012.
A part of history
The Yankees were off to a poor start vs. Oakland on the afternoon of Aug. 25, 2011. They had given the A’s a 7-1 lead by the third inning, the day looking like a lost cause; a stinker.
But Martin came up with a plan.
In the fourth inning he cut the lead down to 7-2 with a solo home run. Robinson Cano followed in the fifth with a grand slam to chop the lead to 7-6. Then in the sixth, Martin came up with the bases chucked and did Cano one better, crushing a grand slam of his own for his second homer in the game, giving the Yankees a 10-7 lead.
You would think the grand ol’ day was over, but there was more to come.
After Martin added another run on an RBI single as part of a six run seventh, Curtis Granderson smacked the Yankees’ third grand slam of the game in the eighth, the Yankees going absolutely wild on the way to a 22-9 win over the A’s. It was the first time a team had homered with the bases loaded in a single game three times in MLB history.
“It’s pretty amazing,” Martin told the media when it was over. “This game has been played for a long time. Pretty much everything has already happened. I’m waiting to see who’s going to hit four – I don’t know if it’s ever going to happen, but we’ll see. Three is pretty cool.”
Helping spoil the centennial
On April 20 the Yankees visited Fenway Park, joining the Red Sox in celebrating 100 years at 4 Yawkey Way in Boston. After a rather bizarre toast by former Red Sox Kevin Millar and Pedro Martinez, the Yanks got to work, putting some runs on the board and halting the BoSox behind the stellar pitching of Ivan Nova.
The Yanks basically had the game in the bag during the top of the sixth, up 5-2, but Martin added a run for good measure. The catcher clobbered a pitch off Clay Buchholz over the Green Monster – and over the Sports Authority billboard – a solo home run to give the Yanks a 6-2 lead to finish off the Red Sox.
Martin had already earned his pinstripes as a Yankee in 2011 when, towards the end of the season after a Yankee win over Boston, he said,
“We enjoy giving the Red Sox a hard time!”
Winning with the bat – and the arm
Martin had a rough go of it the first half of the 2012 season, only batting .179 before the All-Star break. Manager Joe Girardi even pulled him aside and spoke to him about his struggles, hoping his pep talk might turn his fortunes around.
And in the first game back from the All-Star break, he proved the tables had in fact been turned.
Against the Angels at home on July 13, Martin knocked in the go-ahead run with an eighth-inning RBI single. But his biggest contribution was yet to come.
With the Yanks leading 6-5 in the ninth, Howard Kendrick attempted to advance to second base on a ball in the dirt that almost got by Martin. But the catcher recovered nicely; picked up the ball and threw out Kendrick to end the game, propelling the Bombers to a win.
Sometimes it only takes one good game to give a player confidence going forward –and the solid effort certainly did give Martin confidence going into the second half of the season.
“I’m starting to feel a little bit better about myself,” he told the media afterward. “And that’s never a bad thing.”
A Twitter shout-out
This is more of a personal moment, but I’ll throw it in, nonetheless.
In April of 2011, Martin conducted a Twitter Q & A. Hoping to get some recognition, I sent him a tweet question. Little did I know he would respond to me! (Note: he answered me back when my handle was @OriginalAJ615)
(Follow me on Twitter @AJ_Martelli)
Walking off a hero
Twice this year, Martin made the most of clutch situations.
On June 10 after Rafael Soriano had blown a save vs. the Mets at home, Martin brought his big stick to the plate. Tied 4-4 in the ninth, he hammered a pitch off Jon Rauch deep to left field for a home run to not only lift the Yanks to a 5-4 victory over the Metropolitans, but a Subway Series sweep of their cross-town rivals.
Three months and 11 days later, it was the same story. This time however, vs. the Oakland A’s.
Tied 1-1 in the ninth on Sept. 21, Martin pounded another pitch to left; another solo, walk-off home run to beat the A’s 2-1 with one swing.
It’s safe to say Martin knew how to play the role of hero in 2012.
Leading the way in Game 1
The Yankees hadn’t beaten a team not named the Minnesota Twins in the ALDS since 2001, when they beat the A’s in five games. This year they were up against a familiar foe, the division rival Baltimore Orioles, in the first round of the playoffs, looking to finally quell a team other than the Twins in round one.
And it was Martin that set the table, playing a huge role in getting the Yanks out of the funk.
Knotted 2-2 in the ninth, the catcher broke the tie with a most impressive home run off Baltimore closer Jim Johnson, who had saved 51 games during the regular season – which led the majors. Martin’s round-tripper started a five-run rally for New York, as the Yanks went on to take Game 1 from the O’s, 7-2.
Yet it wasn’t just his offense that proved to be the difference.
Martin also made two remarkable plays on defense behind the plate in the fifth, preventing a pair of runs from coming in. It seemed he was just grateful to help the team win, no matter how.
“Whether I help the team win offensively or defensively,” he said, “I am happy.”
On behalf of Yankee fans everywhere, THANK YOU RUSSELL for the two years of service.
Best of luck in Pittsburgh. Tell A.J. Burnett and Jeff Karstens we say hi.
At the end of the first inning of last night’s Subway Series game, I sent out a specific tweet.
“I hope Robinson Cano blasts a 450’ homer off Johan. But that’s just me.”
Lo and behold, on the first pitch he saw in the second inning, Cano absolutely blasted Johan Santana’s offering over the right-centerfield wall, giving the Yankees a 2-0 lead. I then received a reply to that tweet:
Cano would go on to smack another two-run homer in the third, followed by a solo shot off the bat of Nick Swisher. Andruw Jones then came to the plate and clobbered yet another homer, as the Yanks went back-to-back-to-back in home runs, distancing themselves from the Mets.
The power surge led to a glorious 9-1 victory for the Yanks over the Mets, a great way to start off the weekend cross-town showdown.
During the game the Yes Network posed a tweet question, to which I responded:
Little did I know they would use my answer on their “Extra Innings” postgame show – the third time they have used one of my comments on their show!
Hosts Bob Lorenz and Jack Curry praised my insight.
Thanks again to YES for once again using one of my comments on TV. At this point, why don’t they just hire me as an analyst?
The Yanks, meanwhile, will play the second game of their Subway Series vs. the Mets tonight. Coming off his spectacular, complete game win over the Detroit Tigers on Sunday, Phil Hughes (5-5, 4.96 ERA) will toe the rubber for the Yanks, to be opposed by Dillon Gee (4-3, 4.48 ERA).
While the Yankees are Mets – and most baseball fans in New York – are gearing up for what’s expected to be a well-played Subway Series at Yankee Stadium this weekend, another team is preparing for a big day tomorrow.
The Briarcliff Bears, one of the local High School baseball teams I have covered this past season for my newspaper, is gunning for a state title. Last Wednesday the Bears won their section, beating Keio – a team that had beaten them 8-1 during the regular season – by a score of 5-0. (Ironically enough the Bears won their Section at Dutchess Stadium, the same Stadium I interned at…yeah, I had to throw that in).
Briarcliff went on to win its region and this weekend will compete in Binghamton for the Class B New York State title. The Bears from Section 1 will take on Albany Academy from Section 2 tomorrow morning. If they beat Albany, they play the winner of Fredonia (Section 6) and Oneonta (Section 4) later in the day for the state crown.
Best of luck, guys.
I had the pleasure of writing Briarcliff’s season preview back in March, and I covered the Bears multiple times this season – and each game of theirs I covered, they won.
At the beginning of the year on April 5, the Bears hosted their annual Diamond Classic tournament. They made the finals and routed rival Irvington 20-7, winning their own tournament for the first time since 2009.
Power-hitting senior third baseman John Fussell – who has received offers to play baseball next year at Wake Forest, UMass, and Virginia Tech – collected six hits throughout the Diamond Classic, including a home run. He took home the honor of tourney MVP.
“I’m proud and it’s a great way to start the year off,” Fussell said. “It’s a good feeling; I’ve been doing what I need to do so far and I hope I keep it up.”
Outfielder Spencer Kulman earned all-tournament honors, as he clubbed his first varsity level home run vs. Irvington. His teammates ran out of the dugout to congratulate him on his first round-tripper, and Kulman was just as happy with his feat.
“It was my first real home run,” he said. “I’ve had a couple in scrimmages the last two years, but it’s good to finally have one count and it was nice to have them come out for me; a good feeling.”
On May 18 the Bears once again won big, beating another rival, Pleasantville, 10-4. Briarcliff had lost to Pleasantville 2-1 two days earlier, but let out all their aggression in the fourth inning, plating nine runs.
Bears’ Head Coach John Consorti attributed the big fourth inning to some tweaking.
“I think we made a little bit of an adjustment in our at-bats,” he said. “Our at-bats were a little better, we were more patient, and we had more opportunity to use some of our speed on the bases, so it was a very positive inning.”
Lastly, on May 26, I covered their quarterfinal game vs. Putnam Valley, the second stop on the road to their Section title. The Bears, seeded at No. 1, had beaten Croton-Harmon 5-0 the day before in the opening round. Unlike a lot of their other games, however, the Bears didn’t win big.
Briarcliff squeaked by Putnam Valley, 3-2.
Bears’ senior pitcher Paul Henshaw had done a nice job shutting PV down the entire game. That is, until the last inning. Ahead 3-0 in the seventh, things got a little dicey for Henshaw, as he let up two runs with the tying run standing on third base with two outs.
But in the pressure-laden predicament, Henshaw remained calm. He got Tigers’ third baseman Chris Wright to ground out to first, as Briarcliff finished the ninth-seeded Tigers off.
Before Henshaw got Wright to ground out to end the game, Consorti made a visit to the mound. The coach talked to his ace, calming him down when the game was on the line.
“He told me to relax and keep doing my thing,” Henshaw said of the powwow. “He told me to bare down and I was able to regain my focus and keep doing what I was doing, which was jamming them inside.”
The Bears only led 2-0 going into the sixth inning, and Henshaw was saved by pinch-hitter Matt Pasternak – who lined an RBI single to left field to drive in Kulman in the frame. The decision to pinch hit paid dividends for Briarcliff, and Consorti was happy Pasternak came up big when he sent him to the plate.
“Well, it made me look good,” he said of the move. “Matt has more of a short swing and is a contact hitter, so I figured I’d give it a shot and it worked out pretty well.”
Overall, it was a lot of fun to be a small part of the Bears’ team this season. I can only hope they make it all the way and bring home a state title tomorrow.
I’d also like to send a special shout out to the Byram Hills baseball team, another squad I was able to cover this year. The Bobcats were seeded at No. 9 and made it all the way to the Class A section finals. Unfortunately they lost to Harrison, but nonetheless, I’d say it’s very impressive for a nine seed to make it that far.
Byram Hills collected a playoff win at Beacon – a field I’m very familiar with. I made a lot of memories when I played summer ball for the town of Beacon and I’m glad they were able to make some memories there, too.
Although they didn’t win, congrats to Head Coach Scott Saunders, Andrew Slosberg, Scott Rose, and the rest of the Bobcats on a wonderful season. It was a lot of fun covering you guys this year.
(Photo Credit: LoHud, Examiner News, Google, Patch)
Good evening fellow Yankee Yappers…
Instead of simply Tweeting the game tonight, I figured I would try something different. I’ll post what’s happening here on the blog as it is happening, giving everyone the fun experience of following me on Twitter, or just watching a game with me; complete with coverage and wise remarks, inside jokes, and obscure references.
Basically, it’s what we journalists call a running diary. Or in keeping with the baseball theme, maybe more appropriately, a “base-running diary.”
I’ll need feedback after this one: if you, the readers, like this concept, please let me know. If it receives a “vote of no confidence,” so-to-speak, it’ll only be a one-time deal.
Without any further ado, here’s my insight from tonight’s game, as the action unfolded…
- Alright, 21 minute rain delay is over. Hopefully the leprechaun got the gold at the end of that rainbow. Many thanks to Roy G. Biv. Now let’s play some baseball! (7:32 p.m.)
- CC makes quick work of Elliot Johnson, Ben Zobrist, and Desmond Jennings. Three up, three down. (7:40 p.m.)
- Ugh. Jose Lobaton with a bloop RBI single to RF after B.J. Upton’s double to deep left-center. 1-0 Rays. I swear, I thought Michael Kay said “Toblerone” when he first said Lobaton’s last name. (7:55 p.m.)
- Whack-a-doodle play right there. Wild pitch, Nick Swisher goes to third from second, Andruw Jones tries to advance from first to second, but stays put – while the Rays throw the ball past first base. Nuts. (8:07 p.m.)
- Jayson Nix K’s for one out, Chris Stewart with an excuse me check swing; he’s out at first, Swisher scores. We got ourselves a 1-1 game. (8:10 p.m.)
- Virgil…errrm…David Price whiffs Curtis Granderson to end the second. Knotted up at one. (8:17 p.m.)
- Error on A-Rod, Johnson reaches first. Who does he think he is? The entire Rays team? I believe Tampa Bay is one of the league leaders in unearned runs… (8:21 p.m.)
- Speaking of unearned runs, there’s one for the Yankees. RBI single for Ben Zobrist, Johnson scores, 2-1 Rays. (8:22 p.m.)
- Right away, another hit. Jennings with a double, Rays are set up, second and third with one out. Buckle down, ace. (8:24 p.m.)
- Sac fly for Upton, Rays go up 3-1. (8:26 p.m.)
- Virgil gets the Yanks 1-2-3 in the third. (8:37 p.m.)
- I should clarify that David Price eerily resembles Virgil, “Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase’s bodyguard from the old WWF days. (8:38 p.m.)
- Drew Sutton with a two-run double off the LF wall. 5-1 Rays. Not looking like a sweep. (8:47 p.m.)
- Bases chucked in the fifth for the Yanks, one out. They created a chance, now they have to cash in. (9:18 p.m.)
- Virgil Price just hit 97 mph on the speed gun, his 94th pitch of the night. Still firing bullets with a high pitch count. (9:20 p.m.)
- Whoa. A-Rod strikes out swinging with the bases loaded for the second out of the fifth. An 11-pitch battle which Price won; went off-speed on him. That one hurt. (9:25 p.m.)
- Virgil gets Robinson Cano to bounce into a 4-3 putout. Price wiggles out of danger, Rays up 5-1 at the end of five. (9:30 p.m.)
- Into the Ray’s bullpen – and down go the Yanks, quietly. No problems for Tampa’s ‘pen…yet. (9:47 p.m.)
- Granderson is going shopping after the game for a specific hat: a golden sombrero. Struck out by former Hudson Valley Renegade Wade Davis to end the seventh, his fourth K of the night. Ouch. (10:05 p.m.)
- Yankees have six outs to get four runs for the tie. Perfect time for “Mystique” and “Aura” to appear. (10:15 p.m.)
- A one-out walk for A-Rod and a single by Cano; forces a Rays’ pitching change. Hmmm… (10:19 p.m.)
- Swisher strikes out on a pitch up, out of the zone, but pinch-hitter Raul Ibanez knocks in A-Rod with a single through the right hole. 5-2 Rays in the bottom of the eighth with two outs, runners on the corners. (10:29 p.m.)
- Tying run at the plate in the place of Eric Chavez, but he beats it into the dirt; grounds it right to first base. Got one back, at least (10:32 p.m.)
- Aaaaaand the Yanks give it right back. Sutton with a line drive to RF, Swisher boots it, allowing Matt Joyce to come around to score. E9 on Swisher, 6-2 Rays. (10:43 p.m.)
- Very next batter Johnson knocks Sutton in with an RBI double, 7-2 Rays. I think they have successfully avoided the sweep. (10:44 p.m.)
- I think I picked the wrong night for this little blog experiment. It’d be more fun if the Yanks were winning. (10:45 p.m.)
- Bottom of the ninth. Last licks for the Bombers. (10:50 p.m.)
- Russell the Muscle! Martin with a solo homer, his sixth of the year. He went oppo over the right-centerfield wall to leadoff the ninth. 7-3 Rays. (10:52 p.m.)
- Derek Jeter grounds out, Granderson avoids a platinum sombrero with a 2-3 putout, and Teixeira…gets plunked by J.P. Howell. Game’s still not over. A-Rod is due up and closer Fernando Rodney is coming in. (10:58 p.m.)
- Rodriguez pops it up to right field, Joyce puts it away, ballgame [mercifully] over. Final: Rays 7, Yankees 3. Bombers’ three-game win streak snapped. (11:02 p.m.)
- W: Price (8-3) L: Sabathia (7-3) (11:05 p.m.)
- Moving on. New York bragging rights start tomorrow with the first Subway Series of 2012 at Yankee Stadium. Yanks will be heading into tomorrow night’s game vs. the Mets with tonight’s loss; the Mets beat the Nationals 3-1 this afternoon. (11:08 p.m.)
The Yankees are known as New York’s number one baseball team. The Bronx has seen 27 World Series titles and has a history of winning. Year after year the Yankees are in the hunt for the playoffs and they always have a shot at winning it all.
But on the other side of the city in Flushing, Queens, the Mets have not had an easy run these past few years. The last time the Mets won a Championship was 1986 and the last time they even came close to a World Championship was 2006. The so-called “Amazin’ Team” made it to the National League Championship Series and pushed the St. Louis Cardinals to a decisive Game Seven.
The Mets played their hearts out in that NLCS. That was evidenced by an incredible catch made by Endy Chavez in the final game. In the top of the sixth, Chavez tracked a fly ball (hit by Scott Rolen) to the left field wall at Shea Stadium. He leaped up, stuck his glove out over the wall, and brought the ball back into the park for an out.
He turned a two-run homer into a spectacular double play.
Tied 1-1 going into the ninth inning, the Cards took the lead. Yadier Molina swung his bat and delivered a tie-breaking two-run home run to give St. Louis a 3-1 lead. The Mets threatened in the bottom of the frame, World Series in sight.
What could have been the Mets’ dream season ended with Carlos Beltran staring blankly at a disgusting breaking ball thrown by Adam Wainwright.
Strike three called. Beltran out. NLCS over. Cardinals win.
From that called strike three and basically losing the pennant by one pitch, it seemed the Mets never recovered – despite a number of attempts to better themselves. The team from Flushing has gone in a downward spiral; a torturous period of bad luck and misfortune. It just seems as if black cloud has followed the team around since Chavez’s catch.
Following the sad ending in the ’06 NLCS, the Mets went out and got the best pitcher on the trading block. Then-General Manager Omar Minaya made an offer to the Minnesota Twins and the Mets gave up some prospects for ace and two-time American League Cy Young Award Winner (2004, 2006) Johan Santana.
As the Mets’ biggest off-season acquisition, Santana did not have a poor year in ’07 (15-13, 3.33 ERA) but he did lead the N.L. in home runs allowed with 33.
But the real story of the year wasn’t Santana. It was what has become known as “The Collapse.”
For most of the year, the Mets dominated the NL Eastern Division. Into the stretch, they played exceptionally well, as they were 21 games over .500 at 83-62 on Sept. 12.
As they say however, objects in the rearview mirror are closer than they appear – and the Phillies were not far behind the Mets.
Leading Philadelphia by seven games in the division – with only 12 games left to play – the Mets folded and lost six of their final seven games. In a deadlock for first place with Philly on the last day of the season, the Mets were beaten 8-1 by the Florida Marlins.
Meanwhile the Phillies beat the Washington Nationals 6-1 to win the NL East – the same NL East the Mets had a firm grasp on earlier that month. The Phillies were heading to the playoffs and the Mets were going home for the winter.
It couldn’t possibly get any worse for the Mets after 2007, right?
Not quite. After the ’07 collapse came the collapse of 2008.
Throughout ’08 the Mets had problems, as they fired manager Willie Randolph mid-season and they let go of Pitching Coach Rick Peterson. Jerry Manuel, a former Manager of the Year, took over. But even he couldn’t guide the bullpen in the right direction, as the Mets’ relievers failed them in big spots.
It once again came down to the Mets and the Marlins on the last day of the season.
If the Milwaukee Brewers lost and the Mets won, New York would have captured the NL Wild Card. If the Brew Crew won and the Mets lost, Milwaukee was in.
Lo and behold, the Mets lost 4-2 to Florida on Sept. 28 and the Brewers won, a tragic way to end the final regular season game at Shea Stadium. When it was all over and the meltdown was complete, the Mets of old came out for a postgame ceremony. Players like Tom Seaver and Dwight Gooden were on hand to send off Shea Stadium in a nice way.
But to the fans, it felt more like a funeral than a celebration. Two years, two chances for a playoff appearance. And both times, the Mets came up just short at the last minute.
Since then there hasn’t been any room for a postseason collapse for the Mets, simply because they haven’t been in a playoff race following the ’08 meltdown. They attempted to fix their scuffling bullpen by signing closer Francisco Rodriguez prior to 2009. Yet even in trying to build the ‘pen, things didn’t work out.
Case in point: June 12, 2009.
Luis Castillo, a second baseman the Mets traded for in 2007, botched a pop-up that cost the Mets a game – and not just any game: a Subway Series game against their cross-town rivals, the Yankees.
With K-Rod on the mound, two outs, and the Mets leading 8-7 with two men on base, Alex Rodriguez swung and batted a popup behind second base. Castillo got underneath the ball and readied himself to catch it.
When the ball came down he closed his glove, only for it to pop right out and fall to the right field grass, like a piece of bread exploding out of a faulty toaster. Castillo, obviously without his wherewithal, failed to get either base runner out, throwing the ball to second base rather than home plate.
The Yankees scored two runs on the error and won the game 9-8.
It didn’t get any better for the Mets from there, as they ended their first season in Citi Field with a record of 70-92, good for fourth place in the NL East behind Philadelphia, Florida, and Atlanta.
After 2009 the Mets once again tried to land a big-name free agent. Left fielder Jason Bay, coming off a good year playing for the Boston Red Sox, was available and on Minaya’s radar. They signed him to be a power hitter in the middle of the lineup, hoping he would produce and drive in over 100 runs for the season.
Bay did anything but that.
He finished 2010 with a batting average of .259 and only hit six homers with 47 RBIs. It wasn’t exactly what the Mets had in mind, as he had hit 36 home runs with 119 RBIs in Boston the year before. He was also sidelined for a good portion of the year, as he sustained a concussion in a game against the Los Angeles Dodgers. The unlucky outfielder smacked his head against the outfield wall while tracking down a fly ball.
Bay only played 95 games last year and began this season on the disabled list with a rib injury.
Beltran, who was another big-ticket free agent the Mets acquired, has also had a rash of injuries. He had surgery on his knee in January of 2010 and it sparked controversy. The Mets’ organization said the procedure was done without their consent and they stressed their disappointment in Beltran about not consulting them about it first.
Before the Mets signed Beltran before the 2005 season, he gave them – and every other team in baseball – a good reason to seek him out. The centerfielder had slugged 38 homers in ’04 for Kansas City and Houston, and put on quite a hitting show in the 2004 NLCS, which the Astros played against the Cardinals. In that NLCS, he crushed four homers, knocked in five runs, and hit .417.
In his first season with the Mets Beltran hit 16 homers, recorded 78 RBIs, and he averaged .266.
Not a bad season by any means, but certainly not what the Mets had hoped for. Beltran had one outstanding season for the Mets in 2006 – ironically the only season in recent years the Mets have been any good. In ’06 he clobbered 41 homers, registered 116 RBIs, and hit .275.
Statistically, Beltran’s power numbers have declined every year since ’06.
The offense has not been the only facet of the Mets’ game that has been suffering. Their pitching – namely the hurlers they signed to get the job done – have also betrayed them.
Like Beltran, Santana has had one standout year (2008; 16-7, 2.53 ERA) but other than that season, he has been rather ineffective. He has been hurt for three straight years going back to 2009 and at the end of last year he left his Sept. 2 start early and was ultimately shut down. Later that month he had surgery on his pitching shoulder.
This year Santana has yet to pitch and will not begin the 2011 season until end of June or early July.
K-Rod, who had set the all-time saves record in a single season (62 in 2008) before going to Flushing, has not done anything close to what he did while playing for the Los Angeles Angels. Rodriguez went 3-6 in his first year with the Mets and blew seven saves (35 saves in 42 opportunities). He also had a back injury in 2009, once again an unfortunate happening for a player the Mets put a lot of stock into.
This year K-Rod already has one blown save, but one win. Against the Marlins on Saturday, he blew what would have been his first save of the year. However the Mets rallied and bailed him out, scoring three runs in the tenth to beat the fish 6-4.
The day before on Opening Day, the Mets suffered their first loss of the year, a 6-2 defeat at the hands of the Marlins. A person who works for SNY, the Mets’ cable network, played a clip from the TV show “Family Guy” that poked fun at how poor the Mets have played these past few years.
With all of the collapsing, the breaking down, the failure year after year, the injuries to the big stars, the question has to be asked: if you sign with the Mets, are you committing career suicide? No matter what they do, will they ever be contenders again? Is the team, which has basically been reduced to nothing more than a laughingstock, going to eventually turn things around?
This year, probably not. The Mets just do not have the pitching to go toe-to-toe with the Phillies and some of the other teams in the division, such as the Braves. Combine that with the lackluster run production the Mets showcase, they do not stand a chance.
Even though the Mets are failing, Stewie Griffin is poking fun at them, and the state of the team is seemingly in a state of flux, one thing remains constant: the fans.
Mets fans are very loyal. They know that they are doomed to watch their team fall down and never garner enough energy to pick themselves back up. Yet they still go out to Citi Field, and still root for players like Beltran, Santana, Bay, and K-Rod, and others like David Wright, Ike Davis, and Jose Reyes.
I don’t know how they put up with losing, but they do. I tip my (Yankee) cap to them all.
First thing is first: I’m sorry to all the Jets fans who had to witness their team fall in the AFC Title game this evening. I know how emotionally invested a lot of Jets fans are, but I suppose they cannot get too attached. Now, two years in a row, the Jets have lost the last game before the Super Bowl–and bear in mind they haven’t won the big game since 1969.
I watched the game in a New York City bar with a group of friends, one of whom is a huge Jets fanatic. In fact, he is such a huge fan that when they lost, he broke down and tears were in his eyes.
And I don’t blame him. I know the feeling. 2002, 2003 (well aside from Aaron Boone’s home run), 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2008 were all years I went through that awful feeling. His number one favorite team is the Jets. My team is the Yankees, and I know as a fan how hard it is to have your heart set on winning a title, or even getting to a title game or series.
And I know how hard it is to have your heart set on that…and not get it. Believe me, I am familiar with the agnony of defeat. So I do feel for him and the Jets fans everywhere. Yet, as a fan of the New York Giants, I can at least take solace in my memories from 2007-08….
Now onto the main reason I am blogging…
I had a STRANGE dream the other night. And when I say strange, I mean it’s extremely random and very farfetched.
In the dream I had the other night, the Yankees, much like in the 2009 World Series, were playing the Philadelphia Phillies. I guess it was an interleague game…but then again I have no idea, it was a dream. But I do know the Yankees will not be playing the Phillies in 2011, unless it’s in the World Series.
Anyway, it appeared to be before the game and the Yanks were warming up on the field. Cliff Lee walked up to the Yankees with a smile on his face and mockingly said,
I have never woken up from a dream in such anger; in such frustration. I was legitimately annoyed at Lee for something he said IN A DREAM. Maybe I am simply harboring bad feelings because the Yankees have had no luck signing any starting pitchers and they really pushed hard for Lee. That, and in reality, there are two spots in the rotation that are currently voided.
Not only that, but the problem doesn’t look as though it will be solved any time soon. I don’t see the Yankees making a huge blockbuster trade for a viable starter before the season begins. A few names have been thrown around. I have heard Freddy Garcia and Nate Robertson, who might be good for a number five spot.
At this point, I don’t have an answer. I just know that I am sick and tired of every off-season having to go through the dilemma of starting pitching. We always need it and it’s quite tiring.
And not having Lee, knowing he was so close to becoming a Yankee, also apparently irritates me–so much to the point where I am having weird dreams about it.
On a side note (and another funny, little story) I was looking through some of my old Yankee ticket stubs the other day. Yes, I am a packrat and I keep them because they spark so many memories when I look at them.
I picked up one from June 29, 2002–a Yankees vs. Mets game I went to with a number of my relatives from my extended family. That of course meaning, I went to a Subway Series game as a Yankee fan with a ton of Mets fans.
Looking at the stub, I remember what my crazy cousin Joe did. A Mets fan, he made a sign that read “Jason Giambi Stole My Car” and brought it with him to the game.
Why he did this, I will never know. But I will admit it was funny.
The Yankees wound up losing that game 11-2 and yes, it was difficult to stomach that. However, and Derek Jeter hit a home run, which was cool to see. Plus, the Yanks won the other two games in that series, so they had the last laugh. As they usually do against the Mets.
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!
Yesterday the New York Yankees dropped the rubber game of a three game series against the Tampa Bay Rays, a 3-0 shutout at the hands of “Big Game” James Shields. 7 1/3 innings, no runs, four hits, one walk, and 11 strikeouts later, the Yankees lose.
The Bronx Bombers’ lead over Tampa Bay in the American League Eastern Division is now only one game, signifying a likely “two horse race” down the stretch run and into September. The Yanks and Rays own the two best records in the majors and both teams can and probably will make the playoffs.
While the Yanks lost, their cross-town rivals, the New York Mets, were beaten 14-1 by the National League West’s worst team, the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Ed, one of my close friends from high school who happens to be a devout Mets fan, proclaimed his disgust at the team and how poor their play has recently been. I suggested to him that he switch sides, and I said he should become a Yankee fan.
“Come to the good side, and soon you’ll be having dreams of pinstripes, strong, winning seasons, and World Series Championships.”
Ed responded, “Oh, you mean the dark side? I think I’ll trust the force and try to will the Mets to victory!”
I have to tip my cap to him. He is a true fan. Even when I tempted him, which (to him) must have been like the Devil tempting Jesus Christ, he stood by his team. He has been a Mets fan his whole life and he will never disrespect his loyalty to his favorite team.
The whole exchange with Ed got me thinking…what makes a real fan, and more particularly, what makes a true Yankee fan?
Here are some ways (that I came up with) to tell if you are a REAL Yankee fan.
You know you’re a REAL Yankee fan when…
You (at least try) to watch every game
Let’s face it: following the team religiously is an important aspect of being a true fan.
The best part of my night during the baseball season is tuning into the YES Network and enjoying a Yankee game. Things can get difficult with work and in recent years school, and sometimes I am not able to watch every inning. But rest assured, even when I can’t watch the games, I constantly check my phone for updates, box scores, and stats.
Even when I can’t physically see what’s happening, I know what’s happening.
What really annoyed me last year were all the “Yankee fans” who watched maybe 30 innings during the regular season celebrate the World Series victory, as if they followed the team throughout the year. They probably only knew the key players, like Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez.
Which leads into my next point…
You know all of the Yankee players, even the most obscure ones
Everyone knows the brand name players, like Jeter, Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, and Mariano Rivera. They are the faces of the Yankees organization and can easily be recognized by even the most distant Yankee fan. Any person who claims to be a Yankee fan can tell you who these players are.
But what about Ramiro Pena or Colin Curtis? David Robertson and Alfredo Aceves?
If you ask a Yankee fan who these players are and they have no idea, then there is no way they are a real fan. Knowledge of every player–even the lesser-known ones–is a must in terms of being a real Yankee fan.
And it doesn’t just mean lesser-known players from this year.
For example, back in 2005, the Yanks had two starting pitchers to fill in for a banged up rotation; one by the name of Aaron Small the other by the name of Shawn Chacon. Combined, these hurlers went 17-3 and helped lead the Yankees to the A.L. East title, which they won on the second-to-last day of the ’05 season.
Any real Yankee fan would and very well should know that.
You own a decent amount of Yankee Memorabilia
Support of the team is important. One of the best ways to show your allegiance, if not the best, is wear your team’s colors with pride. I, for one, wear a Yankee necklace which I only take off before I shower.
I also own a wide variety of Yankee merchandise, including seven pinstripe jerseys, hats, pennants, bobble heads, framed photos…you name it, I probably have it. Come to think of it, a friend actually once asked me if I own any other clothing that doesn’t have an interlocking NY on it.
Although it doesn’t seem like it, I do have clothes that are not Yankee related.
I am not saying a real Yankee fan has to be as hardcore about it as I am; I am a special case! But the fact is that a real Yankee fan will, at least once in awhile, wear a Yankee shirt or a Yankee hat.
There is no way (in good conscience) a real Yankee fan can’t wear a Yankee shirt once in awhile.
You know the history between the Yankees and the Boston Red Sox
With every great team comes a great adversary.
For as long as there has been baseball, there has been a heated rivalry between the Yankees and Red Sox. There have been brutal fights, players who have switched sides, and countless numbers of classic games played between the two teams.
In my lifetime, there are two games between the Yankees and Red Sox that stand out as being the absolute greatest. The first was on July 1, 2004. Both teams left everything they had on the diamond, as evidenced by Jeter’s effort diving into the stands to make a play. The Red Sox were trying to avoid a three game sweep and the Yankees were trying to complete the sweep.
Neither team wanted to lose.
The Red Sox took a 4-3 the lead in the top of the 13th inning, setting up an improbable comeback win for the Yanks in the bottom of the frame. Miguel Cairo doubled to score Ruben Sierra (again, going back to the idea of knowing who the obscure players are) to tie the game, and John Flaherty (who now works for the YES Network) drove in the winning run to give the Yankees a win.
What a game. I’ll never forget it.
The second all-time best Yankees-Red Sox battle (for me) was Oct. 16, 2003–Game Seven of the 2003 American League Championship Series. The ALCS was knotted at three games apiece, and the Yanks and BoSox went through hell to get to the final game.
The winner of Game Seven was given a one-way ticket to the World Series, the loser was going home.
Boston looked to be in complete command of everything in the fourth inning. They had jumped out to a 4-0 lead and knocked Yankees’ starter Roger Clemens out of the game. Jason Giambi cut into the Red Sox lead with two solo home runs, but David Ortiz smacked a long ball of his own, giving the BoSox a 5-2 edge heading into the bottom of the eighth inning.
I watched that game at home, biting my fingernails and trembling in fear. I thought the Yankees were doomed. My thought process in the middle of the eighth inning was, “The Yankees would be the ones walking back in shame and the Red Sox were going to the World Series.”
But the Empire struck back in the bottom of the frame.
Jeter doubled. Bernie Williams singled. Hideki Matsui doubled. Jorge Posada blooped a single to center field. Just like that, the game was tied. It was the best comeback and by far the most unbelievable game I had ever seen–and it wasn’t even over yet!
Boston, five defensive outs from embarrassing the Yankees, blew the lead and they headed into extras.
In the bottom of the 11th inning Aaron Boone was due up first. I remember thinking to myself, “He’s not going to do anything. He isn’t a power hitter.” But Alfonso Soriano and Derek Jeter were due up after Boone, and I prayed one of them would at least get on base.
My thoughts were soon proven wrong, as Boone came up and hammered the first pitch he saw for a game-winning home run to win the A.L. Pennant for the Yankees. It was the most glorious home run I had ever seen and one of the most meaningful; very rarely will you ever see a walk-off home run to cap off a game of that magnitude.
“There’s a fly ball deep to left! It’s on its way! There it goes…AND THE YANKEES ARE GOING TO THE WORLD SERIES! AARON BOONE HAS HIT A HOME RUN!”
Those words still resonate with me to this day.
There are plenty of other games and moments in Yankee-Red Sox history. But those two stand out as my favorites. If you are a real Yankee fan, you can recollect moments from the rivalry as vividly I have.
You know about the Yankee Stadium Regulars
At Yankee Stadium, the home of the New York Yankees since 1923…well, 2009 if you count the new Stadium…in any case, the Bronx is where Yankees play. If you go to a Yankee game, there are certain traditions and loyalists who are always at the ballpark to root for the Yanks.
The most loyal fan I can really think of is Vinny Milano, A.K.A. “Bald Vinny” of the right field Bleacher Creatures. He conjures up all the fans in the right field bleachers and leads them in a roll call right after the first pitch of the game is thrown. They yell out to every Yankee on the field until they are given some sort of acknowledgment, whether it is a pose or wave.
The roll call has become a staple of Yankee Stadium, and the real Yankee fans know about Bald Vinny and how important he has become to Yankee Stadium.
Another Stadium regular is Freddy Schumann, an older fan who is commonly known as “Freddy Sez.” He walks around Yankee Stadium with a pan painted with a four-leaf clover on it. Attached to the pan is generally a sign that has some sort of encouraging words on it directed at the Yankees.
Freddy also carries a spoon, which is used to bang on the pan. The sound of the spoon on the pan makes a distinctive noise which can be heard throughout the whole Stadium. He always allows the fans around him to bang on the pan, in attempt to stimulate a Yankee rally.
Bald Vinny and Freddy Sez are the number one Yankee fans I know. If you don’t know them, you really don’t know the Yankees very well, or at least not Yankee Stadium.
And the last and probably most important part of being a real Yankee fan…
You Know Your Yankee History
Knowledge is power.
If you are a real Yankee fan, you know the background on the team. Everyone knows they are the winningest team in sports history with 27 World Titles. But do they know how many times the Yankees have been to the World Series? Do they know which Yankee player has the most World Series rings? Do they know all the retired numbers?
Only true fans know that the Yankees have been to the World Series 40 times, Yogi Berra has the most World Series titles as a Yankee (with 10) and there are 16 retired numbers–I can name them all, right off the top of my head.
But naming them all is much too vulgar a display of Yankee intelligence.
Knowing the background of the players is just as important as knowing the background of the team. There are many ways to learn about each player. Interviews, Yankeeography documentaries, and feature stories in sports magazines are probably the easiest ways to increase knowledge about players.
For instance, I read a story about former Yankee ace Chien-Ming Wang in Sports Illustrated a couple of years ago. By reading that feature story, I found out Wang learned his sinker from the Yankees went he came over from Taiwan. One of his pitching coaches in the minor leagues showed him how to hold the ball, and from there he was able to shut the opposition down.
He worked his way up and became the number one Yankee starter.
Yet Wang’s pitching style wasn’t the only thing I learned about from that story. I learned about his life. According to the article, he is (or at least at the time was) revered as Taiwan’s number one athlete; he is a superstar over there. He could not even walk down the street without getting mobbed by legions of fans.
But when he walked down the street in New York City, he was hardly recognized. He felt there was less pressure on him in New York, and that is why he opted to stay there instead of going back to pitch in his native land. That also explains why he was so relaxed as a member of the Yanks and never looked rattled or uneasy when he pitched.
The article on Wang is a perfect example of how to learn about players in an easy way. It was an informative article, pointing out a lot of “You may have not known, but now you do” facts about his life and career.
If you are a real Yankee fan, learning about the players is equally as important as team history.
These are merely a few ways to tell if you are a real Yankee fan. Bandwagon fans can always be told apart from the hardcore ones, simply by conversation. If you talk to someone who claims to be a Yankee fan (or a fan of anything, for that matter) and has no idea about key aspects of the team, then, in my eyes, they aren’t true fans.
I tend to respect the true fans more than those who just root the Yankees on when they win, a la last fall. It’s easier to respect true fans’ opinions when they have more knowledge and follow the team closely. It’s also easier to hold a conversation with the real fans than the bandwagon fans.
Nothing annoys me more when I hear people give me false Yankee info.
The bottom line is that if you are going to be a Yankee fan, be a real fan. Watch more than 30 innings a year, know about the players, and know about the Stadium. Know what the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry means and wear a Yankee hat once in awhile, in undying support of your favorite baseball team.
If you want to be a real fan, then KNOW the Yankees. And if you don’t know them, then don’t act like you do.
The King is dead. Long live the King.
In Tampa, Fl. this morning, a legendary sports figure passed away. George M. Steinbrenner III, the principal owner of the New York Yankees since 1973, died at St. Joseph’s Hospital. He was 80 years old.
Steinbrenner suffered a heart attack earlier today and had been in declining health for a number of years. His two sons, Hank and Hal, have been running the Yankee organization since late 2007 while Steinbrenner oversaw all of the decisions made within the team.
When he took the reigns as Yankee owner from CBS, he brought the struggling Yankees back from mediocrity. Four years after he took over the organization, the Yankees won their first World Title in 15 years. Under Steinbrenner, the Yankees captured 16 Division Titles, 11 American League Pennants, and seven World Series Championships.
A strong body of successful work brought on by a strong man.
In 1952, Steinbrenner received his Bachelor’s Degree from Williams College in Massachusetts. While he attended Williams, he was involved with several extracurricular activities, including the track team and the football team.
One of his activities in college that struck me was his position as sports editor of the college newspaper. As a recent college graduate, the sports editor of my school’s newspaper was a position I held. It’s nice to know Steinbrenner and I had something in common.
After he graduated college, Steinbrenner went on to serve in United States Air Force, where he became a second lieutenant. He was honorably discharged in 1954 and went on to attend The Ohio State University where he got his Master’s in Physical Education.
Talk about a hard-working individual.
At OSU, he helped Buckeyes’ head coach Woody Hayes, serving as his assistant for a season. The Buckeyes were undefeated that year and went on to win the Rose Bowl. He also helped coach at Northwestern University and Purdue University, as he was always an avid sports fan.
As owner of the Yankees, Steinbrenner was known as a hard man. He maintained strict policies, such as the famous “no facial hair, no long hair” rule. He felt that the Yankees needed to look as professional as they possibly could, and ordered that all of his players be clean shaven with their hair cut short.
This edict was put to the test when Lou Piniella, a player and one of the 22 Yankee managers that served under Steinbrenner, once called him on it in Spring Training.
“Jesus Christ had long hair and a beard,” Piniella told Steinbrenner. “Why can’t we have beards and long hair?”
The Yankee owner showed him a small pond beyond the outfield fence.
“You see that pond?” Steinbrenner asked. “Walk across that pond and you can have a beard and long hair.”
He was able to show up his players with his wit and intelligence.
Along with being able to hold power, Steinbrenner was often at the center of controversy and attention. When free agency first became available in Major League Baseball, he signed huge free agents such as Reggie Jackson and Dave Winfield. Many fans of other teams criticized Steinbrenner for “buying championships and big name players.”
Not only that, but Steinbrenner was known for making questionable remarks about his players and even acting on those feelings. Winfield was an example of that. In 1980, he called out Winfield claiming that he wasn’t producing. He was removed by Fay Vincent, the commissioner of baseball at the time, for paying a gambler to “dig up dirt” on Winfield.
And that wasn’t the first time King George was involved with controversy.
Prior to the Winfield situation, Steinbrenner was suspended by Bowie Kuhn in 1974 for pleading guilty to making illegal contributions to Richard Nixon’s re-election campaign. But in lieu of all the controversy, Steinbrenner always made his way back to baseball and the Yanks.
Forgive and forget.
Although he was sometimes a difficult person, his sense of humor was apparent in his personality. He was featured on the television show Seinfeld, portrayed as a funny, eccentric man and the boss of George Costanza on the show. In reality, Steinbrenner loved it. He once said about the character, “You have to laugh at yourself, sometimes.”
His eccentric nature was evidenced during the 2000 World Series. A water pipe had burst in the visitors’ clubhouse at Shea Stadium, and Steinbrenner bent over the help clean up the mess. He said the Mets were probably responsible.
Along with that, he thought the Mets were spying on the Yankees with monitors, trying to figure out their game plan in order to win the title. David Cone played into the Boss’s speculation when he noticed a microphone under one of the tables in the clubhouse.
“Boss, there’s the microphone!” Cone joked.
Steinbrenner screamed to have the mic removed and the wire cut.
Buster Olney, former Yankee beat writer and author of “The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty” described Steinbrenner as an owner who “Would never entrust his team to God. It would mean giving up too much control.”
According to Olney, Steinbrenner could be both gracious and ruthless; both happy and scared. One executive (whom Olney did not name in his book) said, “He would pull over on the side of the road and give money to someone, then hours later he would cut the benefits of his employees. It made no sense.”
When the Yanks played in the World Series all the years Steinbrenner was owner, he was always convinced disaster was looming. The times the Yanks did win it all, his euphoria would never last. The day after the team won, he would be on the phones and in meetings, trying to figure out how to win the next year.
Winning was Steinbrenner’s number one priority. He was even quoted as saying, “Winning is the most important thing in my life, after breathing. Breathing first, and then winning.”
In a 2002 interview, Steinbrenner said he wanted this inscribed on his tombstone:
“He never stopped trying.”
And looking at his accolades and his body of work, Steinbrenner never did stop trying; he put forth his best effort in everything he did and usually triumphed in the end. The Boss put the Yankees back on the map and at the front of the marquee. He may have been loved by few and hated by many, but the bottom line is, he was respected by all.