If you watched the brilliant 2007 miniseries The Bronx is Burning, which detailed the radical 1977 New York Yankees season, you might remember how eccentric former Yankee owner George Steinbrenner was portrayed. The Boss would get ticked off very easily at the most minute happenings, if you recall.
“We lost an exhibition game to the Mets – to the METS!” he snarled in one scene.
It leads me to believe that if Steinbrenner was still alive, and saw what happened last night in Panama, he would have lost his marbles. Not only did the Yankees lose an exhibition to the Miami Marlins, baseball’s biggest joke in the eyes of most fans, they were no-hit.
I repeat: the Yankees were no-hit by the Marlins.
Though only an exhibition, or a game that doesn’t count, Joe Girardi was not thrilled, saying afterwards,
“You never want to be no-hit. I don’t care what game it is, what level. You never want to see that.”
The fact that the game was being played in honor of Mariano Rivera in his native Panama at Rod Carew Stadium – and the fact that Rivera was in attendance to witness this negative piece of history – only hurt more, in this writer’s eyes.
Now granted, a number of big names like Ichiro, Jacoby Ellsbury, Mark Teixeira, Brian McCann and Brian Roberts didn’t participate in the no-hitter, as they were stateside in Florida playing the Baltimore Orioles. Yet a few of the key regulars didn’t impress. In fact, they played a royal hand in being no-hit.
Derek Jeter, Carlos Beltran, Alfonso Soriano, Brett Gardner and Francisco Cervelli were a combined 0-for-14 with one walk and six strikeouts. Gardner was the only one of the five regulars to reach base via a walk, and was only one of two base runners all night. Zelous Wheeler drew a walk in the eighth inning but that was all the offense – if you can call it offense – the Yanks could muster.
The question I kept asking myself was, when is the last time the Yankees were no-hit in spring training? Better question: have they even ever been no-hit in spring training?
The last time they were no-hit (to any capacity) was June 11, 2003 at the hands of the Houston Astros. Coincidently enough, Jeter and Soriano were a part of the no-hitter in ’03 to Houston, as well as a part of last night’s struggle.
What’s funny is today, in the second game of the Legends Series in Panama, the Yankees no-hit the Marlins through six until Giancarlo Stanton singled to begin the seventh inning. So, the day after being no-hit by the Marlins, the Yanks took a no-no of their own deep into the game.
Can’t make this stuff up, folks.
Luckily after all the excruciating, no-hit nonsense to report on last night, the Yankees took out their frustrations in split squad action this afternoon. The stateside crew beat the Atlanta Braves 7-4 and the team that was no-hit last night pounded out 15 hits today, and shutout the Marlins 7-0.
Everyone looked good in this afternoon’s action, including Masahiro Tanaka and CC Sabathia. Tanaka pitched 4.1 innings at “The Boss” vs. Atlanta and only let up one earned run on just three hits. He walked two but fanned six, looking as tactical and as effective as Mike Mussina once looked.
Mussina, if you remember, was not incredibly overpowering but so methodical in facing hitters; he had a game plan. Tanaka looked to possess that “Moose”-like style today, at least in my opinion.
Sabathia, in the meantime, worked his best outing of the spring, tossing a perfect five innings against the Marlins; no walks and five Ks. Coming off such a subpar 2013, and not exactly turning any heads this spring, you have believe he needed a performance like today.
Tip of the Hat on #TBT
I’ve recently become “one of those people” on Twitter who partakes in #ThrowbackThursday, posting an old picture from the past and describing it.
This past Thursday, March 13, was the five-year anniversary of my story on John Flaherty; the former Yankee catcher and current YES broadcaster came to my college (Mercy; Dobbs Ferry, NY) in 2009 to speak to the baseball and softball teams at their fundraiser breakfast.
Flaherty told some awesome stories that morning, including how he was hung over the day he was called up to the major leagues – because he and his friends had gone out for “sodas” the night before.
To celebrate the fun memory, naturally I decided to post a collage photo of my newspaper article on the former Yankee catcher, the ball Flaherty signed for me that day, and the picture he took with me.
Tweeting the photo at him, Flaherty remembered the day and offered me kudos on a job well done, which was very nice of him.
Thanks for the kind words, John!
Last night was a brutal night to be a Yankee fan, as the Bronx Bombers let a middle-innings lead slip away. The Seattle Mariners eked a 4-3 win over the Yanks. With the win, the Mariners are now a .500 team.
The highlight of the game was perhaps Mark Teixeira’s first inning solo home run off rookie phenom Michael Pineda, his 14th round-tripper of the year. Seattle’s defense played a huge role, considering Franklin Gutierrez’s brilliant thievery in centerfield, robbing a scuffling Nick Swisher of a home run in the top of the fourth.
After the game I asked myself, “How would this game have played out if Swisher had hit that home run?”
Probably a lot different, because it was a one-run game.
Instead of focusing on that ugly loss last night, I figured I would lighten the mood with an interesting blog topic: Stadium Giveaways.
Whenever I purchase tickets to a Yankee game or have the chance to go to a game, the first thing I ask myself is, “Are they giving anything away at this game, and if so, what?”
There’s nothing like taking a free keepsake away from the game you attend, along with memories of a day at a ballgame. Some of those Stadium Giveaways can become extremely valuable, depending on what happens in the game.
I’m not exactly sure what the precise value is, but something tells me if you went to David Wells’s perfect game on May 17, 1998, and received the Beanie Baby giveaway, you have yourself a truly valuable item worth a good amount of money.
Every Stadium, not just Yankee Stadium, uses promotions as a means to bring fans out to the park and get butts in the seats. And in the spirit of Stadium Giveaways, I am going to share my favorite treasures, as well as share the action that specific game provided.
Get ready for some stories! Here goes…
Batting Glove Day, July 22, 1999
I will never forget this day, only because it was the first time I sat in the upper deck at Yankee Stadium. It was quite interesting, considering me and heights mix about as well as peanut butter and ketchup.
The Yankee batting glove was given to children 14 and younger and it was a nice prize to carry up to the last row of seats at the old Stadium.
The Yanks hosted the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and beat them by a count of 5-4.
Bernie Williams went deep for the Yanks that day and Andy Pettitte tossed six innings on his way to his sixth win of the year.
Andy Pettitte Bobble Head Day, May 24, 2001
To this day, I am bitter about this.
My eighth grade class took a field trip to Yankee Stadium toward the end of the year. We were treated to a classic Yankees-Red Sox game, in which the Yankees won 2-1.
Mike Mussina and Pedro Martinez dueled it out, each fanning 12 batters in the game. Bernie Williams supplied some Yankees offense with a home run and Paul O’Neill notched an RBI.
The giveaway story was not a happy one, however.
The Pettitte bobble head was given to fans 14 and younger. I was only 13, turning 14 the next month. Because I had hit my growth spurt and I was tall, the Yankee Stadium bobble head distributors did not believe I was actually 13; they thought I was older and thus I did not receive a bobble head.
That day each of my eighth grade classmates got a bobble head and I didn’t. Words cannot describe how much that hurt me; I felt so left out. I was looking forward to a bobble head and I did not get one.
At least I still have the memory of a Yankee win over the Red Sox and a day with my eighth grade class at the Stadium. When we got back from the trip we all took a picture together. I guess I can carry that around with me instead of a bobble head.
Bat Day, June 30, 2001
Bat Day has been a longstanding tradition at Yankee Stadium, going back decades. It was my friend Vito’s 14th birthday and we celebrated at Yankee Stadium.
The Yanks played the Devil Rays that day; Ted Lilly vs. Ryan Rupe. Down 4-0 in the sixth, the Bombers struck back with a three-run inning. They put up two runs in the eighth and went on to beat the Rays 5-4.
Williams crushed two homers (his 13th and 14th of the season) and Tino Martinez also went deep for his 13th long ball of ‘01.
I left the Stadium that day with a bat and a Yankee win. And looking back it was almost déjà vu from the batting glove game; the Yanks beat the Devil Rays by the same score and the same player (Williams) went yard.
Yankee Binder Day, August 7, 2003
Although it was only the beginning of August, the Yankees knew school was soon set to begin. And what better way to bring us back into the school spirit with a Yankee binder, featuring legends and present players?
The Bombers were hosting the Texas Rangers on that hot afternoon, and played them to a 7-5 win.
The ball was jumping off the bats that day, and a number of players had big-time home runs. For the Rangers, Rafael Palmeiro smacked his 28th homer of the year in the first inning, a three-run bomb which gave Texas a quick lead.
But the Yanks answered in the bottom half of the second with four runs, all coming from the same source. Enrique Wilson stepped up to the plate with the bases loaded and clubbed a grand slam, his second home run of the year, to give the Yankees a 4-3 lead.
Soon-to-be Yankee Alex Rodriguez also homered, his 30th of the season.
Starter Mike Mussina settled down and tossed 7 1/3 innings, allowing just four earned runs on eight hits. He walked none and struck out five en route to his 12th win of the year.
Not a bad way to end a day at the Stadium.
Old Timer’s Day: July 9, 2005 and July 7, 2007.
I was fortunate enough to be at Old Timer’s Day twice. If you are a Yankee fan, do yourself a favor and get out to an Old Timer’s Day at least once. You will not be disappointed.
Every Old Timer’s Day, the Yanks issue all fans a commemorative pin.
The first time I had the pleasure of attending Old Timer’s Day was July 9, 2005. The ceremonies were cut short because of rain, but the weather held up for the actual game.
The Yanks played the Cleveland Indians and lost 8-7, but nearly made miraculous comeback at the end.
Alex Rodriguez, Hideki Matsui, Gary Sheffield, and Ruben Sierra each homered for the Yankees, as the ball was once again exploding off the bats.
Darrell May started for New York and did not impress anyone, pitching 4 1/3 innings and giving up seven earned runs on eight hits. On the bright side he didn’t issue any walks and K’d three.
On July 7, 2007, it was a much better experience.
We arrived at the game early, and it was a beautiful day – a contrast to my previous Old Timer’s Day experience. Our seats were behind home plate and Jorge Posada’s wife Laura was sitting a few seats in front of us.
The ceremony was classic; Don Mattingly, Reggie Jackson, Paul O’Neill, Scott Brosius, Ken Griffey, Sr., and many, many more were on hand to play in the Old Timer’s game.
With the retired players divided, they split up into teams: the Bombers and the Clippers. The Bombers beat the Clippers, 4-0.
As for the modern-day Yankees, it was a slow game. They wound up losing 2-1 in 13 innings to the Angels.
What was so ironic about the whole day was that Roger Clemens started for the Yankees in their game vs. the Angels – and he was older than three players who participated in the Old Timer’s Game!
May 24, 2008, Yankee Baseball Card Day
It wound up being my third-to-last game at the old Stadium, and it was a good one. All fans received a pack of collectible Yankee baseball cards.
Let’s be honest, who didn’t love collecting baseball cards as a kid? It certainly brought me back to my youth in a good way.
The Yanks played the Seattle Mariners and (unlike last night) beat them 12-6.
Mike Mussina pitched rather well, capturing his seventh win of his eventual 20-win campaign. The Yanks did it with their bats too, receiving home runs from Jason Giambi and Bobby Abreu.
July 15, 2006, Collectible Stamp Day
This was one the best days I can remember from 2006. A day at the Stadium with my Uncle John and his two sons, my cousins Thomas and Gordon.
Each fan was issued an envelope with stamps of all-time great players: Mickey Mantle, Hank Greenberg, Mel Ott, and Roy Campanella.
Before the game the Yankees held a special ceremony behind home plate with relatives of each player represented on the stamps, including Mantle’s sons.
The Yankees played the White Sox that afternoon and crushed them, 14-3.
Bubba Crosby and Andy Phillips were the only two Yanks to go yard, but they played plenty of small ball. Derek Jeter had three RBIs and two doubles.
July 22, 2009, Yankee Stadium Puzzle Day
One of my fondest memories of the magical 2009 season was going out to Yankee Stadium on July 22, when they faced off with the Baltimore Orioles. Every fan in attendance was given a Yankee Stadium puzzle.
Jorge Posada homered, backing a solid outing from A.J. Burnett. The Yanks won 6-4.
I never put the puzzle together. It’s still in the box.
Hopefully this year I can get out to a Yankee game on a day they give away something neat. It’s always fun to collect and reflect on each game and the memories attached to each giveaway.
On June 15, 1964, The Chicago Cubs traded away left fielder Lou Brock to the St. Louis Cardinals for a right-handed pitcher named Ernie Broglio. Brock went on to enjoy an outstanding career; six All-Star selections, two World Series Championships, The Babe Ruth Award, The Roberto Clemente Award, his number 20 is retired by the Cards, and in 1985 he was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Not bad for a career’s work.
Broglio on the other hand…well. Not many people remember his name and he didn’t do much else with career after he was dealt to the Cubs. He finished his pitching career with a 77-74 record, a 3.74 ERA, and 849 strikeouts. His only accomplishment: winning the most games in the National League in 1960.
Who got the better end of that deal? The Cardinals, of course. Nowadays, whenever a lopsided trade occurs, in baseball terminology, it’s called a “Brock for Broglio.”
Being a devout Yankee fan, there are several instances (in my lifetime) I can think of when the Yankees either made a terrible trade or a bogus free agent signing. With the recent departure of Javier Vazquez, and in the spirit of “Free Agent Frenzy,” I got the idea to write about some of the worst moves the Yankees have made over the years.
So without any further ado, I give you my top Yankee trade/free agent busts.
Here we go…
Jay Buhner for Ken Phelps
“What the hell did you trade Jay Buhner for? He had 30 home runs and over 100 RBIs last year. He’s got a rocket for an arm. You don’t know what the hell your doing!!!!”
On an episode of the TV show Seinfeld, George Costanza’s father Frank (played by Jerry Stiller) scolded George Steinbrenner for trading away a 23 year-old right fielder by the name of Jay Buhner.
The Yankees gave Buhner to the Seattle Mariners in July of 1988 along with two minor leaguers–Rich Balabon and Troy Evers–in exchange for Ken Phelps. To this day, the trade is considered by many fans to be one of the worst trades the Yankees ever made in their history.
A classic “Brock for Broglio,” no doubt.
Buhner went on to become an All-Star and win a Gold Glove in 1996, and in 2004 he was inducted into the Seattle Mariners Hall of Fame. As far as numbers are concerned, Buhner averaged almost 22 home runs per season after leaving the Yankees and knocked in over 100 runs for three consecutive seasons from 1995-97.
It is obvious Buhner established himself on both sides of the field and overall was an excellent player.
Phelps on the other hand just faded away. He had only caught Steinbrenner’s eye initially because he was able to hit 14 home runs in half a season–a feat the Yankee owner viewed as impressive. Unfortunately he gave away a player who went on to enjoy success and in return received a player who went on to become a nobody.
Now whenever someone mentions Phelps, he is remembered as “The guy that got traded for Jay Buhner.”
As a Yankee fan did losing Buhner upset me? Did watching him perform so well year after year against us annoy me because I knew he could have been doing it for us?
Yes and no.
I liked Buhner, even though he was on the Mariners. He had such poise and talent; he could swing a hot bat, could play stellar defense, and yes it was hard to watch him knowing he was once a Yankee.
But at the same time, the Yankees had a pretty good right fielder of their own named Paul O’Neill–a man who earned the nickname “The Warrior” by Steinbrenner. Having O’Neill may have even been better than having Buhner.
After all, O’Neill was a force in the Yankee Dynasty. Without him, the Yankees may not have won the title in 1996 and 1998-2000. O’Neill battled year in and year out and because of his work ethic, he helped guide the Yankees to the Championship.
And for as good as Buhner was, he never won a title. With O’Neill in right field, the Yankees did.
You know things aren’t going well for you when your boss calls you a “Fat P—y Toad.” Hideki Irabu was called this name by Steinbrenner, simply because he did not cover first base on a ground ball–in Spring Training, no less. In fact, The Boss didn’t even allow his pitcher to travel with the team to Los Angeles after the incident because he was so infuriated.
That’s what you would call a serious “FML” experience.
The San Diego Padres had purchased Irabu’s contract in 1997 from the Chiba Lotte Marines of the Nippon Professional Baseball League in Japan. Believe it or not, his purchase led to the current format used today that MLB enacts to sign Japanese players. Without this deal, players like Ichiro, Hideki Matsui, Daisuke Matsuzaka, and Hiroki Kuroda would have never made it to the Majors.
Apparently Irabu wanted to act as much like a big-name superstar as he could, because he refused to sign with San Diego. What’s more, he stated he would only like to play for the Yankees.
That’s a bit egotistical, wouldn’t you say?
The Yankees eventually had to offer San Diego players in exchange for the rights to negotiate with Irabu. When it was all said and done, the Yanks gave up, $3 million, Rafael Medina, and Ruben Rivera (cousin of Mariano Rivera) for Homer Bush and the rights to Irabu–who was later signed by New York for $12.8 million over four years.
A complicated exchange and one that never really did pay off.
The best season Irabu put up was 1998. His numbers:
· 13 wins
· 4.06 ERA
· 173 innings pitched
· Two complete games
· 28 games started
Not exactly worth $12.8 million, if you ask me. I suppose the Yankees could have gotten a little more bang for their buck; or they at least could have signed him for less money.
Irabu collected two World Series rings (1998 and ’99) but didn’t even last all four years he was under contract with the Yankees. After 1999, Irabu was traded to the Montreal Expos (now known to most fans as the Washington Nationals) for Ted Lilly, Christian Parker, and Jake Westbrook. He finished his MLB career with a 34-35 record, a 5.15 ERA and 405 lifetime Ks.
And much like the Buhner trade, Irabu was spoofed on Seinfeld for his poor performance. In the show’s final episode, Frank once again confronts Steinbrenner and yells,
“How could you spend $12 million on Hideki Irabu????!!!”
I guess we will never know, Mr. Costanza.
I can understand why Steinbrenner and the Yankees sought Kevin Brown. He had racked up a lifetime of accolades, including a World Series ring. He was even named “Pitcher of the Year” by The Sporting News in 1998. Brown had made a number of All-Star game appearances, and had the ability to carry a pitching staff working as the ace.
What I cannot understand however, is how a pitcher can get so frustrated that he throws a punch at a wall and breaks his pitching hand in the process. I mean, if you are a pitcher and you have a bad game and get called on it by your teammates or manager, slam your glove to the dugout floor. Take a bat to the dugout water fountain, if you are feeling especially psychotic. Or my personal favorite, knock over a Gatorade cooler.
But don’t ever, under any circumstances, try to pick a fight with a wall and use physicality. The wall is guaranteed to win every time.
With that sheer display of immaturity, I not only lost all respect for Brown but now consider him a terrible move the Yankees made. I don’t really see it as a “Brock for Broglio” per se, because the Bombers only gave up Jeff Weaver, Yhency Brazoban, Brandon Weeden, and $2.6 million for Brown.
Aside from Weaver, the Yanks did not let go anyone of note and Weaver struggled mightily in the 2003 World Series…although his fall classic struggles didn’t stop him from pitching like a stud for the Cardinals in the 2006 World Series…
In 2004 the Yanks probably felt Brown would help lead their pitching staff. But those feelings were not exactly well-founded.
In 2004 Brown went 10-6 with a 4.06 ERA, which weren’t bad numbers for an older pitcher who was playing for the first time in the crazy New York atmosphere. In fact, Brown pitched rather well in the ’04 ALDS vs. the Minnesota Twins, posting six innings and only giving up one run. The Yanks went on to win the series 3-1.
However, his ALCS Game Seven outing vs. Boston is what he is most infamous for; pitching less than two innings and allowing five runs, including a two-run homer to the hated David Ortiz. Essentially, Brown didn’t give the Yankees a shred of a chance to come back and win the pennant.
All Yankee fans, including myself, were outraged. He picked the worst day of the season to have a poor outing. The most important game ever and Joe Torre used the least intelligent member of his pitching staff.
In 2005, Brown attempted to come back, but was sidelined due to injuries. He finished the year in ’05 with a 4-7 record and an ERA of 6.50. The following off-season, he announced his retirement.
I don’t blame the Yanks for trying to catch lightening in a bottle with Brown; there is no denying that he was a decent pitcher in his prime. Yet, it did turn out to be a bad move because they caught Brown in the twilight of his career. As a Yankee, he was nothing but a shell of his former self and could not get the job done when it came to nut-cutting time.
Overall, I chalk Brown up as a big loss for the Yankees.
$39.95 million that could have gone to a better cause. Charity, I suppose.
Following the 2004 collapse to the Red Sox in the ALCS, the Yankees were convinced they needed starting pitching. Along with the big signing of the Big Unit, Randy Johnson, the Yanks sought and landed free agent hurler Carl Pavano.
I used the term “hurler” not because Pavano is a starting pitcher, but because just by mentioning his name makes me want to hurl.
Not for nothing, Pavano was coming off his best career season, numerically, in ’04. In his contract year with the Florida Marlins, he won 18 games while only losing eight and posted a respectable 3.00 ERA. His numbers made him a hot free agent commodity and multiple teams, including Boston and the Cincinnati Reds, wanted him.
Ultimately it was the Yankees who got Pavano and I wish they hadn’t. It would have been better for them if the Red Sox or Reds had wasted their money on him.
At first Pavano appeared to be a decent pitcher. He gave the Yankees quality in seven of his first 10 starts, putting together a 4-2 record and posting a 3.69 ERA–again, not bad for just starting out in the New York environment.
But by June of ’05 Pavano got hurt for the first of many times. Truthfully, his injuries and disabled list stints piled up more than his actual baseball statistics.
· Went on the DL in June of ’05 with right shoulder injury. Ultimately went 4-6 with a 4.77 ERA for the season.
· Began 2006 with bruised buttocks; on DL for first half of year. Then…
· Broke two ribs in a car accident in August of ’06; did not end up pitching at all in an MLB game.
· On April 15, 2007 was placed on DL after what was diagnosed as an “elbow strain.” The next month Pavano announced that he would opt to have Tommy John surgery and missed the remainder of the year.
· First start coming off Tommy John came on Aug. 23, 2008. He pitched five innings and gave up three runs on seven hits.
· The next month on Sept. 14, Pavano left the game with an apparent left hip injury.
I have two words for all that: cry baby. He never pitched a full season with the Yankees.
What really struck me were Pavano’s comments after his last game as a Yankee. The press questioned him about his ineffectiveness and his repeated injuries; they were probably about as skeptical about his excuses as most fans were.
Pavano responded by saying, “Well, what are you going to do, you know?”
Really? That’s the best he could do? $39.95 million should buy a little more thought than that. Pavano concluded his tenure (if you can even call it that) with a record of 9-8.
Prior to 2007, Mike Mussina stepped up and publicly called Pavano on his injuries. Mussina said, “His injuries don’t look good from a player’s standpoint. Was everything just a coincidence? Over and over again? I don’t know.”
Thank goodness one of his teammates spoke out against him. Quite honestly it needed to be done.
In 2009 Pavano joined the Cleveland Indians and was traded mid-season to the Twins. I couldn’t even believe it when I noticed that halfway through 2009 he was one of the league leaders in wins. He even finished 2009 with a record of 14-12–winning five more games in one year with Cleveland and Minnesota than he did in four years with the Yankees.
How ridiculous is that?
At any rate, it must have been fun for the Yanks to punish Pavano for all the grief he put them through by beating him in Game Three of the ’09 ALDS–en route to their 27th World Series title.
If I were the Yankees last year, I would have sent Pavano a Christmas card with a picture of everyone hoisting the World Series trophy. Along with that, the Yanks could have attached a note to the photo that read, “Thanks for nothing.”
The Yanks also beat Pavano in the ALDS this past season, another satisfying moment for all Yankee fans.
Javier Vazquez and Nick Johnson
I decided to combine these last two players simply because they failed in pinstripes not once, but twice.
I’ll begin with Javier Vazquez.
The day after the Yankees were eliminated from the ALCS at the hands of the Texas Rangers, it was reported that Vazquez was already speaking to the Washington Nationals about possibly pitching for them in 2011. His talks with the Nats obviously cooled off, and as reported on Sunday, Vazquez has apparently agreed to a deal with the Florida Marlins.
I have four words for him: good riddance, you bum.
Before this past season began, Vazquez was acquired from the Atlanta Braves along with reliever Boone Logan. In exchange for Vazquez, the Bombers gave up young outfielder Melky Cabrera and rookie reliever Mike Dunn.
I would not necessarily categorize the trade as a “Brock for Broglio,” although it kind of had that quality. Cabrera had an awesome year in 2009; he smacked three walk-off hits for the Yanks (including the first walk-off home run in the New Stadium), became the first Yankee to hit for the cycle since Tony Fernandez in 1995, and capped it all off with a World Series ring.
Cabrera was a beast and was looked at as one of the most pleasant surprises in ’09.
The Yankees however did need starting pitching. They only used three starting pitchers in the playoffs and were able to get over the hurdles on the strength of three horses: CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and Andy Pettitte. They needed a fourth man and they looked to Vazquez.
Why they wanted Vazquez, I’ll never know.
Sure he was second in the National League when it came to ERA in 2009 (with 2.87) and he won 15 games for the Braves. I suppose the Yankees thought they would really be unstoppable if they could get that kind of production out of their number four starter–which made it somewhat understandable.
Yet, the Yankees must have forgotten how Vazquez busted for them in 2004, which was his first stint in pinstripes. In ’04 Vazquez went 14-10 with a 4.91 ERA. Like Brown, he pitched in Game Seven of the ’04 ALCS, giving up a grand slam and a two-run homer to Johnny Damon–once again, not giving the Yankees a shred of a chance to come back and win the pennant.
Maybe they figured he could do a lot better than that come his second go-round. Perhaps the Steinbrenners and Brian Cashman had the mentality of, “It can’t get any worse, he can only do better.”
In 2010 Vazquez pitched to a 10-10 season record with a 5.32 ERA. He started 31 games and allowed 32 home runs, pitching so poorly throughout the year that he did not even make it into the postseason starting rotation. Was the trade really worth giving up Cabrera?
Well I guess it didn’t matter. Cabrera finished 2010 with a .255 batting average for Atlanta and only hit four homers and knocked in 42 runs. But that doesn’t erase what he did in 2009, and if he had played in the Bronx in 2010, he might have had a better year.
The bottom line is that Vazquez was a bad move made by the Yankees. I knew he was going to bust before the season began; actually I knew he was going to fail again right after the trade was completed. It was just so foreseeable. And when he gave up that first-pitch home run to Jimmy Rollins on day one of Spring Training, I knew it was all over for him.
And then there was Johnson.
In 2001, Johnson served the Yankees as Tino Martinez’s backup at first base. When Martinez left for St. Louis after the season ended, Johnson became a little bit of a regular first baseman, albeit the Yanks did have Jason Giambi in their lineup and available to play first.
Johnson would go on to rank seventh in the league in hit-by-pitches in 2002, but did put up a somewhat decent year in ’03. Johnson clubbed 14 homers and drove in 47 runs with a .284 batting average, but his injury-prone nature kept him from truly breaking out.
The Yankees had no choice but to trade him at the end of ’03, ironically enough for Vazquez. Two useless Yankees got traded for one another. Really, what are the odds? And like Vazquez, as useless as Johnson was, the Yankees still could not manage to give up on him.
On Dec. 23, 2009 the Yanks signed Johnson back to a one-year, $5.5 million deal.
This past year Johnson was expected to be the everyday designated hitter, taking up the mantle of the great, 2009 World Series MVP Hideki Matsui. Unfortunately, Johnson saw little action because of a wrist injury. In fact, before the season even began, Johnson injured his back in Spring Training, proving once again that he did not belong in a Yankee uniform.
He finished 2010 very early with 24 games under his belt, only 98 plate appearances, two home runs, eight RBIs, and 12 runs scored.
The bottom line is, the Yankees have wasted a ton of money on terrible players and have given away some great players to get some rather mediocre ones. But they are not the only organization to do it; it happens to the best of teams.
I mean, the Red Sox gave up Jeff Bagwell for a reliever named Larry Andersen. (Who?)
The Blue Jays gave the Yankees David Cone for three minor leaguers who never made it.
The Devil Rays gave Bobby Abreu to the Phillies for Kevin Stocker. (Who?)
And who could forget the New York Mets giving up Scott Kazmir for Victor Zambrano?
Chan Ho Park–yes, Mr. Diarrhea himself–got $65 million from the Texas Rangers in 2002.
Juan Pierre received $44 million from the Dodgers in 2007.
Yes, baseball organizations are human and make bad moves sometimes. Maybe next week I’ll review some of the BEST moves the Yankees have made; off-season changes that have paid off royally and had a great impact on the team. I can think of quite a few right off the top of my head.
And while I’m waiting, I’ll hope the Yankees can decide on the right moves. The Baseball Winter Meetings begin next week and I’m hoping the Bombers can make a splash in Orlando.
Flirt. The word is defined as behaving amorously without serious intent or to show superficial interest or liking. Being a single guy, flirting is something I specialize in. Yet the word also refers to coming close to reaching or experiencing something.
In the New York Yankees’ 10-0 win over the Tampa Bay Rays today, CC Sabathia did just that. The Yankee ace tossed 7 2/3 innings of hitless baseball until Kelly Shoppach lined a sharp single in front of Brett Gardner in left field.
Four outs and Sabathia would have tossed a no-no. Serious flirtation.
After Shoppach’s base hit to break up the no-hit bid, Sabathia departed. He ended the day with 7 2/3 innings, and shutout the Rays with just that one, painful hit. The Yankee ace walked two batters and struck out five, leaving David Robertson to finish the job.
However, even if Sabathia had gotten Shoppach out, would he have stayed in the game? After all, the big man was up at 111 pitches on the afternoon. Yankee manager Joe Girardi said that no matter what happened, “Sabathia’s day was over after he faced Shoppach.”
On the other hand, Sabathia said that if he had gotten Shoppach out, he would have wanted to stay in the game. In his words, “the conversation on the mound would have been interesting.”
The last Yankee to throw a no-hitter was Dwight Gooden, who no-hit the Seattle Mariners on May 14, 1996. David Wells and David Cone both threw perfect games on May 17, 1998 (vs. Minnesota Twins) and July 18, 1999 (vs. Montreal Expos), respectively. Since then, no Yankee starter has ever thrown a no-no or perfecto.
However, some have come close.
On Sept. 2, 2001, Mike Mussina shut down the first 26 Boston Red Sox he faced at Fenway Park. Needing just one strike for a perfect game, Carl Everett lined a bloop single in front of Chuck Knoblauch in left field.
Sound familiar, Shoppach?
Just last year on Aug. 31, Andy Pettitte shut down the Baltimore Orioles for 6 2/3 innings. Jerry Hairston, Jr. bobbled a grounder at third for an error to end the perfect quest. The very next batter, Nick Markakis, ended the no-hitter with a single through the hole into…you guessed it, left field.
It seems left field is the “death valley” of Yankee no-nos and perfectos.
Come to think of it, Cone’s perfect game in ’99 was nearly broken up by a fly ball to left field. In the ninth inning, pinch hitter Ryan McGuire popped a ball out to short left field, forcing Ricky Ledee to get on his horse. Stunned with a “deer-in-the-headlights” look on his face, he basket-caught the ball, juggled it, and held on for the out.
It might be a some kind of left field curse.
On the bright side, Sabathia picked up his first win of 2010, the Yankees improved to 3-2 on the year, and the big man lowered his ERA to 3.46.
Along with Sabathia’s brilliance, Mark Teixeira, who was hitless this season up until today, finally came alive. The first baseman had three hits on the day, a double and two singles. Coupled with those three hits were an RBI and two runs scored.
Robinson Cano continued his fine hitting out of the number five hole, as he went 2-for-5 in the game. He belted a long, two-run home run into the right field seats in the top of the fourth inning en route to a three-RBI day. He now has a team-leading six RBIs in the first five games.
Gardner, Curtis Granderson, and Francisco Cervelli all contributed with RBIs to give the Yankees their 10 runs in the game.
Tomorrow afternoon the Yankees and Rays will play the rubber game of their three-game weekend series. A.J. Burnett (0-0, 5.40 ERA) will face James Shields (0-0, 4.50 ERA)
A Mets fan dies, goes to Heaven, and is promised a palace to live in. The palace is said to be completely and totally decked out in Mets gear; pennants, posters, and pinups all bearing the orange and blue.
When the man arrived to Heaven, he noticed a castle all decked out in Yankee gear. He walks up to God and asks him about it.
“What is the deal? I thought you promised me a Mets house!”
God replies, “Oh the Yankee palace? That’s my house!”
My Uncle John Lakis told me this joke the day of my eighth grade graduation party.
Sadly, my uncle passed away yesterday afternoon. He was one of the greatest Yankee fans I knew and more importantly one of the nicest people I knew. He had a kind heart, loved his family with all his heart, and had such a wonderful and infectious personality.
I had the pleasure of working for him over the summer of 2005. We shared many conversations about the Bronx Bombers, politics, and my future goals. He always seemed interested in what I had to say and I always enjoyed and cherished his company.
My Uncle John once told me a story about how he would (occasionally) go to school for half a day and leave in the afternoons to go to Yankee Stadium. He and his friends would get to the ballpark and buy cheap bleacher seats. Then they would spend the rest of the afternoon watching the Yanks win from the grand stands.
It’s funny that he told me that story. Just recently, my journalism mentor has been telling me to enjoy myself and not always be so cautious and tense. In his own words he told me, “get in trouble once in awhile.”
It’s good to know that my uncle had the mentality of having fun. I think he was trying to teach me that by sharing that story with me. Ditching school for a Yankee game is something I have done in the past year, so in a way I think he would be proud of me.
I guess you have to break the rules sometimes.
His son, my cousin Thomas (who is also a HUGE Yankee fan), won tickets to a Yankees vs. Braves game back in 2006. June 27 was the day of the game. Tommy had won excellent seats; in fact they were in a luxury box in the loge tier. I had never sat in a luxury box at a Yankee game (or any sporting event, for that matter) and I haven’t since.
I remember talking to my Uncle John about how strange it felt to be sitting there. He remarked by saying that “it just didn’t feel like a real game,” since there were HD televisions in the suite. I’ll admit, the TVs made it feel strange, but so did the atmosphere. There were other people in the box–business men–who spoke about their business trips and work lives.
One of them even made a comment, mentioning how when he had gone to Chicago a few weeks prior, he saw Andy Pettitte pitch. I can only assume the White Sox were hosting the Astros in a 2005 World Series rematch.
As for the Yankees, it was not their night. The Braves handed them a 5-2 loss. Really the only notable highlight of the game was a home run in the ninth inning from Melky Cabrera. It’s kind of ironic when I think about it, now that he plays for the Braves.
But we had a much better day the very next month.
On July 15, 2006, my other cousin Krystina gave me tickets to a game vs. the White Sox. These were excellent seats; right on the third baseline, practically right behind the White Sox’ dugout. I invited my Uncle John, Tommy, and my cousin Gordon. We all had a “boys day” and traveled down to the Bronx for the game.
And it was a GREAT day to be a Yankee fan!
Mike Mussina made the start against the soon-to-be-perfect Mark Buehrle. He may have tossed a no-no the next year in 2007 and a perfecto in ’09, but the Yankees tore Buehrle apart the day we saw him pitch. They hit him very hard, chasing him from the game after just three innings of work.
Mussina on the other hand was brilliant tossing a quality start and later registering the win. Moose gave up just three runs on eight hits, issuing one walk and fanning five along the way. Let’s just say Mussina was Mussina that day.
(Of all Yankees) Bubba Crosby and Andy Phillips smacked home runs that day–if you even remember who they are. The youngsters may have gone deep, but Derek Jeter, my Uncle John’s favorite player, went 2-for-4 with three RBIs and a run scored.
The Yankees won in a squadoosh, 14-3. My Uncle John was very happy.
What I also loved about the game we all attended vs. the White Sox was the giveaway. The U.S. Postal Service issued collectible stamps of old-time baseball players. We received four stamps. The first bore the image of Mickey Mantle, the second was Mel Ott, the third Roy Campanella, and finally Hank Greenberg.
In fact, each player was represented at a ceremony behind home plate before first pitch. I can’t remember who represented who, but I do know that Mantle’s sons were there, which was pretty special. Now whenever I look at my stamps, I will always think of my uncle.
This past Christmas was the last time I saw my uncle. He pulled me aside and talked to me about possibly going to Florida this spring to see the Yankees work out in Tampa. I am about to graduate college and everyone’s schedules have been too messy, so we obviously were not able to go. He wanted to take me and his boys.
It was something he had wanted to do for awhile, but we never got to do it.
I am going to miss him very much. He was a great boss, a great teacher, an avid and intelligent Yankee fan, and overall a wonderful person. I will not forget him for everything he did for me and I will always remember the great times I had with him.
Uncle John, I wish you peace. We all love you and we will not forget you.
And I’d like to add that Heaven just received a great Yankee fan and a great man.
“I am the resurrection and the life, says the
Lord. Whoever believes in me, even though they
die, shall live. And whoever lives and believes
in me will never die.”–John 11:25-26
Welcome to part two of my analysis of baseball and football. Let us continue! Here’s part one if you missed it.
Why Football is Better than Baseball, Part II
13) The NFL draft is actually relevant.
Agreed. The MLB draft is not nearly as talked about as the NFL draft. Since 1936, the NFL draft has attracted people from all over the world; people come from everywhere to find out which pro teams the eligible college players are going to go to. As long as I can remember the NFL draft has been on TV and everyone I know talks about that last weekend in April.
Only up until recently has the MLB draft been televised and simply put, nobody cares about it. Analysts on ESPN have gone as far as saying that the baseball draft is just not interesting. Some of these baseball players who get drafted do not show up in the MLB for years, if they make it at all.
In football, there are a large majority of players who get drafted out of college and the next year they are either starting or at least standing on a pro football field.
This kind of leads into the next point, which is…
14) College Football matters.
Excellent point. My philosophy has always been, the more years you play organized before turning pro, the better and more disciplined you will be as an athlete.
There just are not a lot of baseball players who go to college, whereas basically all the NFL players go to school. In fact, before some of the football games (when the teams are going through their starting lineups) the players come on and give their name and alma mater. For example, Eli Manning will come on and say, “Eli Manning: Ole Miss.”
I tend to have a lot more respect for the baseball players that do educate themselves. Mike Mussina is a perfect example. He attended Stanford University and pitched there for four years before turning pro.
Mussina was never the most overpowering pitcher in the MLB, but he had wits; he was one of the smartest pitchers in the game. He could change speeds like no other pitcher during his playing days. He never threw a 100 mph fastball but it didn’t matter. He perfected his craft on the collegiate level before turning pro and he’ll probably be a hall of famer because of it.
15) Every football team has a specific philosophy on offense AND on defense.
I see where he is coming from, but I don’t know if I completely agree. In football, there are certain ways to execute different plays on offense and defense. For instance, if a quarterback is in the pocket looking to hook up with an open receiver, the defensive end must fight to flush him out, apply pressure on him, and force him to scramble.
On defense in baseball, you have to make plays. If the ball is hit to you, it’s your job to ensure an out by making a putout, catch, or assist. I guess you can say philosophies are quite different, but I’m not sure what he was getting at with this point.
In my view, in both baseball and football, teams have to play both sides of the field.
16) The American and National Football Conferences play by the same rules.
ABSOLUTELY YES. This is an advantage football has over baseball. The same rules apply to both conferences whereas the National and American Leagues in baseball have a different format, in terms of one position.
I never understood the designated hitter rule. Why does the AL have it and the NL doesn’t? It’s an unfair advantage the NL has over the AL in the World Series, not to mention the DH extends players’ careers. Mike Piazza, Frank Thomas, Jim Thome, and countless others have been able to keep their careers going because of the DH rule.
I suppose in that regard it’s helped players, but to me it’s ridiculous. I’ve even heard people say it should be done away with. Both leagues should go by one rule. Either have the DH in both leagues or don’t have it at all.
17) Coaches spend more time coaching in football. Baseball managers only manage.
I can’t really speak for this statement.
In baseball spring training and in batting practice and in football mini camp and practice, I really have no idea what goes on and neither does anyone. Unless you are standing on the sidelines or on the field with the team, you have no clue what the manager or coach is telling their players.
I agree that baseball managers are simply there to manage, with their coaches doing a lot of work (bench coach, bullpen coach, hitting coach, base coaches, etc.) but they are also most likely doing a good amount of instructing as well.
Yet in football, there are defensive and offensive coordinators, wide receivers coaches quarterback coaches…and so on and so forth.
I do know that head football coaches manage games just as baseball managers manage games; collectively they are in charge and (in certain ways) dictate what’s happening on the field. Baseball managers decide who plays and who sits but football players can take themselves out of a game if they want.
18) Football plays can be diagramed and discussed. Baseball only uses sequences.
OK, it’s a point. Football players can literally sit down and map out with Xs and Os what to do in certain offensive and defensive situations. There can be numerous scenarios on what plays are being used and what to do when those plays are utilized by the opposition.
In baseball it’s different. When there is a runner on first base and the ball is hit on the ground to the second baseman, the shortstop must cover second base to get the lead runner out first, and then throw to first base to turn the 4-6-3 double play.
By that example, the point is valid. It’s just a sequence. The players do not have to diagram a double play and discuss it because the play is simplistic.
19) The climax of a football game always comes at the end. A baseball game can be over by the second inning.
This statement is false. The biggest play in any game can happen at any time. If anyone happened to catch the New Orleans Saints vs. the Arizona Cardinals this past Saturday, the game was over by the second quarter.
The Saints came out and absolutely dominated the Cardinals, and before halftime everyone knew which team was going to win. Just as a baseball game can be over by the second inning, a football game can be over by the second quarter.
Furthermore, a baseball game’s climax can also come at the end of a game. It’s called a walk-off home run.
20) A baseball game can theoretically go on FOREVER.
This is true. In football the game is designated to 60 minutes, but includes three timeouts for each team (in each half), a 15 minute halftime, injury timeouts, challenges, etc. But you know that unless the score is tied, by the end of the fourth quarter, someone wins and someone loses.
If there is a tie, 15 minutes of overtime is played. Whoever scores first wins. If no one scores, the game’s over in a draw. Those are the rules, I did not write them.
In baseball the game can, as stated, go one forever. Aug. 7 of last year comes to my mind. 15 innings of Yankees vs. Red Sox until Alex Rodriguez finally ended the game with a walk-off home run at 1:00 in the morning.
Fun game to watch, but absolutely brutal in terms of time. It was going on forever.
21) In football, team depth matters. The third-best wide receiver matters whereas the third-best shortstop does not.
A valid point. You could be the third, fourth, or even fifth best player at your position in football and still get a chance to prove yourself and play on the professional level.
I’m just going out in a limb, but Yankee farmhands who play shortstop and third base probably won’t be seeing the big leagues anytime in the near future. And…does Ramiro Pena really mean as much to the Yankees as Derek Jeter?
On the other side, Sinorice Moss can mean just as much to the Giants as Amani Toomer did; Toomer was a number one receiver, Moss is a second team player. And even though he’s a second team player, he’s made a touchdown catch in the NFL.
Not to single out Pena, because he has started at shortstop for the Yankees, but other Yankee farmhands have not even had the chance to hit a big league home run.
22) Football features team slogans and cheers: (eg.) J! E! T! S! JETS JETS JETS!!!”
This has got to be the worst reason on this list. I don’t even know if I should go into it or not. I’ve heard “Waltzing Matilda” chants from games at the World Cup in soccer.
“Let’s Go Yankees! (Clap, clap, clap-clap-clap!)”
I rest my case.
23) Football rivalries are bitter and plentiful.
There are rivalries in every sport.
The most significant rivalry in baseball and probably in sports in general is (gasp!) Yankees vs. Red Sox (it’s a shocker, right?) Other than that rivalry in baseball, I can really only think of Yankees/Mets, White Sox/Cubs, Giants/Dodgers, and Cubs/Cardinals.
I’ve noticed as a football fan that rivalries among division opponents are more prevalent. I am a Giants fan and I can see how badly the Giants hate both the Cowboys and Eagles. As a Yankee fan, we hate the Red Sox, but really don’t care as much about the Orioles or Blue Jays, who are also in our division.
Plus, football rivalries extend beyond the division. I mean, the Ravens hate the Colts because the Colts moved out of Baltimore and into Indianapolis. Now whenever the Ravens play the Colts, the fans in Baltimore feel the Ravens should crush the Colts because in their eyes, the Colts ditched them for another city.
I guess in football things can get rather personal whereas in baseball, everything is basically dominated by the Yankees and Red Sox rivalry.
24) There is parity in football. You can stink today and win it all tomorrow.
I could not agree with this statement more. Equality is where it’s at.
When the Giants went on their incredible run in 2007-2008 to win Super Bowl XLII, they were coming off a miserable 8-8, 2006-2007 campaign. They were literally abysmal one year and won the whole thing the next year.
The Miami Dolphins are another example. They didn’t win anything from 2007-08, but in 2008-09 they came back to edge out the Jets, Bills, and Patriots to win the AFC East. They were horrible one year and won their division the next.
In baseball, all the same teams are expected to be there at the end–the Yankees, the Red Sox, the Angels, the Phillies…it’s almost like we already know who’s going to win the majority of the divisions and who’s not.
In baseball, do we really expect the Royals to be a playoff team at the end of the year? There are teams in baseball who haven’t been contenders in quite some time and are not getting any better anytime soon. Any given year, a football team can win.
Plus, many of the races are a lot more exciting in football; the Giants were in the race up until the second to last game of the year, and really it was any team’s title to win. The Cowboys and Eagles were also contending and there was no clear winner of the division up until the very end.
Eventually the Cowboys claimed it with the Eagles winning a Wild Card spot. Unfortunately, the Giants were left out, but that doesn’t mean they can’t come back next year and win it.
In 2009, the Yankees practically had the AL East won by the beginning of August. The baseball regular season almost got boring toward the end.
25) There is a salary cap in football.
Probably one of the biggest reasons many people feel football is fairer and more equal than baseball. It’s a great point and again, it goes back to fairness.
At the end of 2008, the Yankees spent almost a quarter of a $billion on CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and Mark Teixeira…added on to the $290 million they are paying Alex Rodriguez…and so on and so forth.
There is nobody telling the Yankees no. They can spend as much money as they want without anyone blinking an eye. With that, they dominated their division in 2009 and subsequently won the World Series. I will never feel in my heart that money can buy a championship; titles come from team chemistry and the will to win, coupled with everything going right for the team.
But I can’t help but notice how much money the Yankees spent. And if you don’t notice a problem in payroll disparity, you are blind. I love the Yankees very much, but they helped create the problem of unequal payroll (even Yankee writers have noted this)
In football, each team is given only a certain amount of money to spend and with that they can sign players, draft picks, etc. With each payroll, every team has a chance to win every year. It’s equal, something baseball hasn’t been for a long time.
When free agency in baseball arose, it changed the game. And there’s free agency in football too, but even the best football player will not make the type of salary Rodriguez, Sabathia, and Teixeira make.
Yet…some people may not know this, but George Steinbrenner learned his baseball methods as a football coach. Quite ironic, if you ask me.
It’s a really tough argument. I think there are many great points the author made in his column as to why football has an edge over baseball. I personally enjoy both sports and baseball will always be my first love. But football is a great sport too.
There are some other reasons I thought up on my own as to why football might be considered better than baseball. For starters, the Pro Bowl (the NFL equivalent of MLB’s All-Star Game) has no bearing as to where the Super Bowl is played. I think that’s a great point.
The team with the better record should have home field in the World Series; MLB just instituted that stipulation to entice the players to care for the game and actually play. MLB says, “Winner gets home-field in the World Series.” They might as well just say, “Act like you care about this game and play.” Football doesn’t have that.
Another reason (and it kind of goes back to territory) is the Super Bowl location: it’s always played on neutral ground. The World Series is not like that. One team has an advantage and the other doesn’t.
I’ve read some silly arguments, like football is better because of the cheerleaders. Well, not that it’s too disturbing watching pretty girls cheer on their team from the sidelines, but baseball doesn’t need them. That’s always been my take. And it’s not like every football team has cheerleaders. The Giants don’t.
Baseball can be looked at as better because there is a game every day, despite the slow-moving action it is fun to watch, and players can be extremely smart and still win.
My overall opinion: it’s a tie. Baseball has been around a lot longer than football and it owns the label as America’s pastime. It always will. I think there are a lot of problems with the game today–payroll disparity, an unequal playing field on many levels, and greed among the players.
But I’ll always love baseball. I’ve developed unconditioned love for the sport.
I’ve been a football fan for about seven years now and I also have a great admiration for the sport. It’s a fast-paced, high-action, and fun sport to watch. I love the game and even though it wasn’t my first love, it still holds a great place in my heart.
But never mind my opinion. What really is better: football or baseball? After what I’ve written, it’s up to you to decide.
On my Yankee Yapping Facebook page, I noticed that I am closing in on 500 fans. The number 500 is pretty high and it takes a baseball player a long time to reach that number, especially in terms of home runs.
On August 4, 2007, Alex Rodriguez became the first Yankee player to reach 500 home runs since Mickey Mantle, who slammed his 500th long ball on May 14, 1967. The current Yankee third baseman became only the third player to hit his 500th career homer in a Yankee uniform, of course joining Mantle and the legendary Babe Ruth.
A-Rod, Mantle, and Ruth are now in the record books and are pretty much considered to be three of the greatest home run hitters in baseball history.
But Rodriguez’s 500th home run could not have come at a worse time. For me.
The day after A-Rod left the yard for the 500th time I went to the Yankees vs. Royals game. I’ve always said (and still say it to this day) that I wished he had waited one day. By about 24 hours, I missed a moment in Yankee history.
Two of my cousins had four tickets to the game and invited my sister and me to go with them to Yankee Stadium. We had excellent seats; we sat on the main level on the third baseline, practically right behind the Royals’ dugout. We had such a wonderful view of the field!
Then-manager Joe Torre (sort of) rested Rodriguez the day after he reached 500. Before he hit the big homer, A-Rod had been struggling immensely at the plate. He waited eight days and 28 at-bats to hit the elusive 500, but he eventually got a hold of one and accomplished the feat.
So on Aug. 5, A-Rod started at the designated hitter position while Wilson Betemit played third. As Torre used to say, A-Rod had “half a day off.”
The Yankees jumped on the Royals early, scoring four runs on the second inning. Melky Cabrera singled to score his buddy Robinson Cano, Derek Jeter drew a bases-loaded walk to drive in Betemit, and Bobby Abreu singled to score Andy Phillips and Cabrera to put to the Yanks ahead, 4-0.
In the bottom of the third, Hideki Matsui launched a solo home run into the right field porch, giving the Yanks a 5-0 lead. What some people may not know was that home run was Matsui’s 100th career home run as a member of the Yankees (and in Major League Baseball in general).
So even though I missed A-Rod’s 500th homer by one day, I saw Matsui’s 100th homer in-person, the day it happened.
In the bottom of the fourth, Rodriguez stepped up to the plate. He received a thunderous ovation for what he had done the day before and almost every Yankee fan was on their feet cheering and chanting, “501! 501! 501!”
Although he wasn’t able to smash yet another homer, A-Rod drove in a run with a sacrifice fly to deep left-center field to score Jeter, giving the Yankees a 6-0 lead.
Kansas City finally broke out and scored in the top of the sixth when Ross Gload belted a long, two-run home run into the upper deck in right field off Mike Mussina. His home run went a long way, and I mean a long way. I’m not sure if that ball has landed yet. Just watching that ball fly out of the park and into the upper deck was pretty amazing, even though it was for the opposing team.
But the Yankees would get those runs back in the bottom of the frame.
Cabrera hit a solo home run to right field, a screaming line drive that just cleared the right field wall. Yankees were now on top, 7-2. I didn’t notice at the time (and I didn’t find out until I watched Sportscenter after I got home) but the same person who caught Matsui’s home run ball caught Cabrera’s.
That’s one lucky fan; he caught two home run balls by two Yankees in the same game. After I heard that, I wished my seats were behind the wall instead of behind the dugout!
Later in the sixth, Matsui drive in another run with a sacrifice fly to score Jeter, putting the Yankees ahead, 8-2. It seemed the Yankees were doing everything right, but the Royals did not go down without a fight.
Mark Teahen singled off side-winding reliever Mike Myers to score David DeJesus in the top of the seventh and on the same play Esteban German scored on a throwing error by Cabrera, cutting the lead to 8-4.
Myers gave up yet another run in the top of the eighth, surrendering an RBI single to Joey Gathright that scored John Buck. All of a sudden the Royals were down by only three runs. Uh oh…
Replacing Myers was the great one, Mariano Rivera. The Yankees’ ace closer was summoned to record a four-out save. As Enter Sandman blared through the Yankee Stadium speakers, I noticed a sign someone in front of me was holding up. It read:
“1977 The Bronx is Burning. 2007 The Yanks are on Fire!”
Very clever sign.
It was the truth; right around that time the Yankees were on their run to the Wild Card title in a season that looked hopeless. The Yankees had no business even being considered for the playoffs toward the beginning of the year, but they picked up their game over the summer and earned the Wild Card spot, basically on the shoulders of Rodriguez.
I still believe that if A-Rod had not been as good as he was, the Yankees never would have made the playoffs. He undoubtedly carried them to into the postseason.
Three groundouts and a strikeout later, Rivera notched the save and procured an 8-5 Yankee win over the Royals. It was a good day to be at the ballpark and a good day to be a Yankee fan.
Win Mussina, loss Gil Meche, save Rivera. Win A.J. Martelli. My sister, my cousins and I smiled as we listened to Frank Sinatra’s New York, New York as we filed out of the turnstiles.
Any day the Yankees win, it’s a good day.
I had a lot of fun that day, I only wish Rodriguez had not hit the big home run the day before. Although seeing Matsui hit his 100th career home run was exciting, it would have been nice to see A-Rod’s 500th. The whole team came out of the dugout to congratulate him and you could just tell it was a special and historic moment.
Some of the Yankees have said that Rodriguez’s milestone homer was their favorite memory in the old Stadium and to be there for it would have been amazing. Missing it by one day fills my heart with regret and I still wished he had gotten that one pitch to hit just 24 hours later.
The bottom line, however: 500 is a big number. And to have almost 500 fans on the page for this blog is pretty neat. Thank you all for reading and I hope it continues to grow!