Results tagged ‘ John Wetteland ’

We asked and he delivered…

Budget, Smudget…

What more could we have asked of the Steinbrenner family?  Seriously, the Steinbrenners opened their purse strings this off-season even if the infield is in a state of flux.  Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran, Kelly Johnson, Brian Roberts, Matt Thornton, Andrew Bailey, and last but not least Masahiro Tanaka.  For a team that stood pat the previous off-season, the Yankees over-compensated this year.

It would have been nice to Robinson Cano’s bat mixed in with the new offense, but if he had stayed, it’s likely that Tanaka would be in Chicago or Los Angeles, and Beltran would be with the Red Sox or another team that expressed interest.  Time will tell if it was the right move, but I think the Yanks were wise not to throw a quarter of a billion dollars at Cano.

When Brett Gardner re-signed with the Yankees this week, he mentioned that it didn’t matter if he got what he did or twice as much, it wasn’t going to change his lifestyle and he wanted to be a Yankee.  It’s the last part of the previous sentence that Cano didn’t feel.  That only reinforces the Yankees decision to move on.  I do not realistically expect Brian Roberts to recapture his glory days.  I would have preferred Kelly Johnson at second with the Yankees bringing in another third base solution, but when you spend as much as the Yankees did in the last few months, something has to give.  With the Yankees, you know that a spring trade or a July deadline deal is not out of the question.

Sure, the team is banking on another stellar managerial performance by Joe Girardi, but I feel much better going into this season than I did last year.  Last year, it literally felt like a team that wouldn’t make it the distance.  This year, I feel the team has a legitimate shot.  A few guys need to step it up a level but that’s within the realm of possibility.  It’s not exactly like we are asking Brendan Ryan to be the second coming of Derek Jeter.

The wild card is obviously Michael Pineda.  If he continues to pitch like he is capable of, he will bring so much to the end of the rotation.  A healthy and productive Pineda is far superior to the inconsistency that Phil Hughes provided.  With Jesus Montero 40 lbs overweight in Seattle, this could be the year that Pineda makes “the trade” pro-New York.

Masahiro Tanaka may be billed as Andy Pettitte’s replacement but next year, he’ll most likely be current teammate Hiroki Kuroda’s replacement.  But for now, I am very glad that Kuroda is there to serve as mentor for his countryman.  I’ve wondered if Kuroda’s presence, along with the Yankees money, brought Tanaka to New York.  If I was coming to a foreign country, the idea of another American would be very appealing to me.

With the Yankees extending Brett Gardner, and the Cincinnati Reds doing the same with Homer Bailey, there should be no more Gardner for Bailey rumors.  As a hopeful optimist for Michael Pineda and his spot in the rotation, this is a best case scenario.  I am a bit concerned with two speed-first guys in the outfield (why do I keep thinking about Dave Collins?) but Alfonso Soriano brings the bat along with Carlos Beltran.  I am anxious to see how Jacoby Ellsbury’s bat plays in Yankee Stadium for 81 games rather than just the usual 9 or 10.

Andrew Bailey.  I am not quite sure why the Yankees signed Bailey but he’s a hedge against a David Robertson meltdown.  Of course, Bailey won’t be available until late season so if Robertson fails miserably, they’ll need another solution.  While Robertson has proven to be a great set up guy, the 9th inning is a different story.  He failed in his brief audition before getting hurt the year Mariano Rivera was lost for the season with the knee injury suffered in Kansas City.  Rafael Soriano stepped in and provided super relief following Robertson’s unsuccessful stint.  With Soriano now entrenched as the closer for the Washington Nationals, there’s no safety net.  Bailey offers the only proven closing experience yet he’s not going to be an option until July or later.  My hope is that Robertson seizes the role.  I was skeptical when Mariano Rivera replaced John Wetteland and that one turned out okay.  Alright, a little better than okay…

Sorry that my posts have been infrequent but I’ve been in the midst of a move from the West to East Coast.  I am not in a major league city but I can get to New York for a weekend so that’s all that matters.  This should be a good year for making home games at Yankee Stadium after a few years of only away games while living in the Golden State.

I am so ready for the regular season to begin and yet the spring games are still a day or two away.  Oh well, that’s more time for the Yankees to strengthen the infield…

–Scott

The Anticipation…

 

The 2013-14 Hot Stove League has opened for business…

The baseball offseason is always interesting.  In November, when the Hot Stove League open, there is more talk and speculation than real action.  There is the occasional free agent signing, like Marlon Byrd to the Philadelphia Phillies, but for the most part, it’s the most boring part of the winter. 

Baseball fans get excited as the baseball winter meeting approach in early December.  The ‘name’ free agents come off the board and there are a few major trades as teams look to improve their rosters for the coming year.

Then, in January and early February, things go quiet again until the excitement of pitchers and catchers reporting for spring training begin to fill the air. 

The key is what teams do in December.  Doing something versus doing nothing can be the difference in an invigorated fan base.  With the Boston Red Sox fresh off a championship season, the Yankees and their fans need something to be excited about.  Hope needs to be restored in the Yankees Universe.  The Steinbrenner family have an enormous responsibility of the owners of baseball’s most storied and valued franchise.  Sure, it is their right to do nothing and cut salaries if they so choose, but it is not good for baseball.  MLB needs a successful Yankees franchise as much as the fan base demands a winner.

From early indications, it does appear that Hal Steinbrenner is taking a more proactive role.  He plays down the speculation that the team is resolved in its intent to bring salaries below $189 million and he recognizes the weaknesses of the current roster.  So, what is he going to do about it?  Time will tell, as the saying goes…

I am still not 100% convinced Derek Jeter can be the player of old or just an old player.  He might be able to play a serviceable shortstop if healthy but the Yankees need more.  I want Jeter to play for the Yankees his entire career and he is clearly a future Hall of Famer but this is the season of transition for the legendary player.  He needs to work on playing other positions, whether it is third base or left field, to give the team its greatest value.  It is obvious Jeter has the ability to exceed my expectations but I think the odds are against it.  I am just being a realist.  Age doesn’t slow down for anyone.  Well, except for maybe Mariano Rivera

The “gift” that keeps on giving…

The unresolved Alex Rodriguez situation casts an ominous shadow over the team.  I believe the Yankees should proceed as if A-Rod will not be a member of the 2014 team but that’s easy for me to say.  The Yankees have to be prepared for a scenario that allows baseball’s most vile player to return to the field in 2014.  Personally, I look forward to the day A-Rod turns in his pinstripes for the final time.  I do not expect the Yankees to go out and land a premier third baseman like Evan Longoria but they need more than they had last year.  I respect Kevin Youkilis but his best years have passed by and at this point, he is too much of an injury risk to re-sign.  I heard the rumors the Yankees had talked with the St Louis Cardinals about David Freese but I don’t think that would have been the solution.  It’s too bad that former number one draft pick Eric Duncan didn’t work out as this would have been his prime opportunity to take third if he had been successful and not released.  But still, there are Scott Brosius-type third basemen that can be found. 

Betances-Robertson?…

After years of knowing the back end of the bullpen was secure, the Yankees have uncertainty.  The heir apparent to the great Mariano Rivera is top set up man David Robertson.  However, there is risk.  When Mo was lost for the season in 2012, Robertson failed in his brief audition as closer before Rafael Soriano took the role and ran with it.  I like Robertson as the key 8th inning guy but I am not convinced that translates to 9th inning success.  I really do not want an aged option like Joe Nathan as I would prefer younger arms.  My hope is for Robertson to succeed but there does need to be a safety net in case it doesn’t work out.

I am looking forward to key bullpen roles for guys like Dellin Betances, Preston Claiborne, and Adam Warren.  With the right moves this winter, the Yankees bullpen should be a strength even if we no longer get to see #42 warming up. 

I do remember the sense of some uncertainty when Mariano Rivera replaced John Wetteland and that turned out well.  Granted, David Robertson will never be Mariano Rivera but he can be successful in his own right.  With the right bridge from the starters to his late inning arrival, he can be successful. 

The April Iceman Cometh…

Mark Teixeira, I really hope your wrist has healed and is stronger than ever before…

But first, or rather, but second…

The perceived success or failure of the Yankees’ offseason will be tied to a single event…whether or not they re-sign second baseman Robinson Cano.  While that’s a huge part of the 2014 equation, the true testament will be how the team bolsters the starting rotation behind CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova.  Nevertheless, I hope the Yankees can retain Cano even if the player has the desire to go for top dollar regardless of who cuts the checks.

Speaking of the rotation or lack thereof…

It is hard to get excited about potential names like Ricky Nolasco.  I remain hopeful Hiroki Kuroda returns for one more year and Michael Pineda is finally able to fulfill the promise that brought him to New York.  It’s hard to speculate who I would want added to the team as there is no possibility for an acquisition of David Price or Felix Hernandez.  As Pineda has shown, arms carry great risk.  I have liked free agent Bronson Arroyo but he does not exactly fit the ‘younger arm’ mold.

Well, for now, the uncertainty and disappointment of the 2013 season still looms but soon the promise of the 2014 season will be upon us.  I said it last year and it did not happen so I’ll say it again:

Hal Steinbrenner, the message is simple…excite us!  Signed, Yankees fans.

 

–Scott

Parting is such sweet sorrow…

I was never a fan of good-byes…

Sadly, the 2013 Major League Baseball Season has come to an end.  Well, at least for the New York Yankees.  It was an eventful final week that saw a farewell to the great Mariano Rivera that was unmatched by any I have seen in recent years or even during my lifetime.  Mo’s final game at Yankee Stadium turned out to be the final game of his professional career as he chose not to pitch during the season-ending series in Houston to preserve his Bronx goodbye as the final exit for a storied and soon to be Hall of Fame career.

I have been a Mariano Rivera fan since the days when he set up John Wetteland in the bullpen.  His 7th and 8th inning appearances before the cardiac appearances by Wetteland were electric.  The ball seemed to come screaming with blazing speed yet Mo seemed so effortless in letting the ball leave his hand.  He made it look easy, and for the length of his career, he proved he was just a little better than everyone else.  Sure, there were a few hiccups along the way.  A couple of key blown saves in critical games, but these were few and far between.  His success rate was far superior to any failures, and in those failures, you knew that Mo had left his all.

Looking back, I certainly have no regrets.  It was an honor and privilege to be a Yankees fan and to witness the career of the latest Yankees legend.  He’ll be someone that my grandchildren will be talking about, and I can say that I saw him pitch from the beginning to the end.  Mo showed how special it was to play for one team, and he is forever embedded into Yankees lore.  Ichiro Suzuki will be immortalized in Cooperstown one day as a Seattle Mariner, but Seattle will never be able to call Ichiro exclusively their own.  They may have had his best years, but he still is playing his final years as a Yankee, not a Mariner.  Fortunately, we never had to see Mo in another uniform or his former catcher, Jorge Posada.

I have been a Yankees fan since 1974 when free agent Jim “Catfish” Hunter, then my favorite pitcher, signed with the Yankees.  I had grown up very intrigued by the Yankees with their great history and tradition.  Those early 70’s were still a tough time for the Yankees organization, but they were about to turn the corner following the acquisition of the team by George Steinbrenner and his partners.  To digress, I always loved the quote “There is nothing in life quite so limited as being a limited partner of George Steinbrenner”.   This quote is attributed to former Yankees minority owner and later Houston Astros owner John McMullen.  The first baseball biography I recall reading when I was little was a book about Lou Gehrig, and I’ve been a fan of his ever since.  So, when Catfish made the decision to join the Yankees, it was very easy for me to follow.

During the course of my Yankees fandom, I’ve considered the following players to be my favorite Yankees.  Hunter, Thurman Munson, Rich “Goose” Gossage, Don Mattingly, and Mariano Rivera.  All those years and I can still count my favorite active Yankees on one hand, well until today with Rivera’s retirement.  That doesn’t mean I don’t respect other Yankees over the years, these guys just happened to be my personal favorites at the time they played.

Being someone who appreciates history and tradition, I’ve always felt that Rivera was the perfect man to take Jackie Robinson’s number to retirement for the final time.  Mo proved that he had the character to stand with greatness, and he served the legacy of Jackie Robinson very proudly and understood its significance.  I am glad that the last guy out of baseball with #42 wasn’t some thug just trying to hang on to a lost career, with rumors of a steroid past.  He wears #13.  Okay, sorry, I didn’t mean that, or maybe I did, but you get the point.  Jackie Robinson was a great man who dealt with more adversity than any of us will ever knew.  He did it while turning the other cheek and proving he was the better man.  He did this while carving out a Hall of Fame career on the field.  If there was a man who deserved to have his number retired across baseball, it was Robinson, and if there was a man who deserved to be the final one to walk off the field with it, it was Mo.  The Baseball Gods made sure this one played out like it was supposed to.

Mo, we thank you for simply being you.  You did it your way, and you never strived to be anything other than what you were.  You proved better than most in shaking off the game’s failures and you never gloated in its successes.  You were proud of your teammates and respectful of your opponents.  Baseball needs you, and I hope that this is just the beginning as you move into the next phase of your career.  I am proud, very proud, when I say that I am a Mariano Rivera fan.  He exceeded my wildest expectations and he leaves as the best ever at his position.  He deserves to be a first ballot entry to the Hall of Fame.  Anything less is unacceptable.  He was ours and he proved he belongs to the Hall like no other that I’ve personally witnessed during my lifetime.  Farewell, Mo.  This is not the end, but simply the closing of one chapter and the opening of the next.

 

Mariano Rivera

 

AP Photo (courtesy of LoHud Yankees Blog)

The gaze from under the brim of his cat…

While the focus of this post is Rivera, I would be remiss for not saying thanks to Andy Pettitte.  Time and again, he stopped losing streaks and he was clutch when it mattered most (October).  He never had the brilliant stuff of Felix Hernandez or Roy Halladay, but he was a winner.  His passion showed and he was a champion.  It was tough watching him leave via free agency for those three years in Houston, but I am glad he came back.  Even during his time in Houston, you’d hear stories about how Andy still followed the Yankees.  He is part of the Yankees family and history and always will be.  It was so very fitting that his final game was a complete game win in his hometown of Houston.  A bit ironic that the opponent was named Clemens (Paul Clemens, no relation to Roger).  For the final game of the season, Roger Clemens did make an appearance to wish farewell to Mariano, and he gave Andy a hug.  There has been a lot of mudslinging between the former close friends and regardless of what Roger may have or have not done, I was glad to see the small reconciliation.  Baseball is greater than any one of us, and at the end of the day, Clemens, Pettitte, and Rivera were teammates and they represented the our team.  I fully expect to see all three at future Old Timer’s Day games and I am hopeful that old scars can be healed and that the game itself can move forward.

Back to Andy, he will be a hard act to follow.  When you look at the Yankees pitching staff, there is not one that can match Andy’s heart.  CC Sabathia appears to be on the downside of his career, Hiroki Kuroda could very well head to Japan for his final season or two, Phil Hughes has worn the pinstripes for the last time, Ivan Nova is a roller-coaster and the jury is still out on David Huff.  Next season will be one of transition and it is unfortunate that we’ll no longer have Andy as an anchor to the rotation.  Andy’s ceiling was never as a #1 pitcher.  He came to the major leagues with question marks, but he left as one of its greatest post-season performers.  We were lucky to call Andy one of our own, and I am glad that he was never dealt away in one of those knee-jerk type of trades that we saw during the George Steinbrenner regime.  Sorry, George, I miss you but you gotta admit that some of those trades left a little bit to be desired…

Getting back on track, Andy leaves the game being able to stand shoulder to shoulder with the greatest lefty in Yankees’ history, the Chairman of the Board, Whitey Ford.  The Core Four (Rivera, Pettitte, Jorge Posada, and Derek Jeter) did an excellent job in reaching the pinnacle of their positions in franchise history.  Posada may not have matched Yogi Berra, Bill Dickey or Thurman Munson, but he can stand in the same room.  DJ is obviously one of the greatest shortstops in the team’s history (along with Phil Rizzuto).  For a team so stacked in history and tradition, four contemporary players reaching the upper echelon is amazing.  It is the end of a terrific Yankees era, and as much as I hate to see Derek Jeter go out with an injury filled career, I would prefer for him to leave now rather than to come back next year for what most likely will be a year of reduced relevance on the roster.

What does the future hold?…

I really do not know what to expect next year.  At the moment, it is uncertain if Robinson Cano or Curtis Granderson will be back.  Joe Girardi is talking about needing time to decide if he wants to come back which is not a good sign in my opinion.  Mark Texeira will be back next year, but he is deteriorating as he ages.  I am not sure that CC can get back to being the dominant pitcher he once was, and the line-up is filled with age and injury-susceptible players.  The farm system at the upper levels is weak, at best.  While many of said that this has been a great year of managing by Joe Girardi, I’d argue that it has not been one of Brian Cashman’s best years.  I do not know how much he has been constrained by ownership, but the 10 wins that the team could have used this season could have been acquired through smart and strategic moves.  The farm system is very lacking at the upper levels and I know that injuries have played a part, but at some point, Cashman has to be held accountable.  Like fine wine, it is harvest season except the Yankees do not have anything to harvest.  They’ll have to overpay and to give up too much young talent to field a championship squad next season.  Unfortunately, neither makes sense even for the Yankees, so it feels as though we are in the midst of an era of transition.  Hopefully, greatness will be waiting on the other side…

–Scott

 

Dreading this day…just one Mo time…

Grace and dignity…

Unfortunately, this day was inevitable.  Father Time catches up with everyone, including the greatest closer in the history of Major League Baseball.

Saturday, the great Mariano Rivera confirmed the speculation of the last few days.  The 2013 season will be his final one as the champion of the 9th inning at Yankee Stadium.

Mo has been my favorite Yankee since the time he was the “lights-out” set up guy for closer John Wetteland in the 1996 season.  Wetteland was effective, but there were always a few anxious moments.  Rivera, on the other hand, completely dominated the hitters prior to turning the ball over to Wetteland.  There were so many times that I had wished manager Joe Torre would have stayed with Rivera rather than pulling him for Wetteland.  While it was Rivera’s talent and ability that caught my attention, it was his character…full of grace, dignity, and professionalism…that has made me an enduring fan all these years.

Rivera has taught so many over the years how to forget life’s failures and how to enjoy its successes without gloating or antagonizing opponents.  He has always respected the game and never once in his career has he placed himself above the game or above others.

Relievers have had their struggles gaining acceptance into the Hall of Fame, but in my mind, Rivera should be a first ballot entry.

It was appropriate that Mo wore the number #42.  As the final active player to wear the number after it was retired league-wide, he has upheld the legacy of Jackie Robinson…perhaps better than anyone else could have.  Jackie endured far more challenges and difficulties than I’ll ever be able to fully comprehend, but he paved the path for others including Mariano Rivera to succeed.  Mo embodies the depth of character that Jackie Robinson had and it is tremendous that #42 hanging in Memorial Park will stand for two of the greatest men in baseball’s long history.

It has been a privilege to call Mo my favorite player for so many years.  As I think back upon my life as a Yankees fan, it was Jim “Catfish” Hunter who first attracted me to the Yankees when he signed as a free agent in 1974, along with my high regard for the legendary Lou Gehrig.  Once a Yankees fan, my favorite player quickly changed to the heart and soul of the team…catcher Thurman Munson.  I have always loved to see passion in doing what you enjoy, and Thurman was certainly as fiery and passionate as they come.  The 1976 World Series still stands out to me.  Although the Yankees were swept by the Cincinnati Reds, it wasn’t because of Munson, who hit over .500 in the series.  If the rest of the team could have matched Munson’s intensity that year, they would have defeated the Big Red Machine.

After Thurman’s untimely death in 1979 (a day that I will always vividly remember, like so many Yankee fans), Rich “Goose” Gossage became my favorite player.  After a few years, he had moved on to the San Diego Padres as a free agent.  But by that time, Don Mattingly had become my favorite player.  Donnie Baseball was one of the great ones and it’s unfortunate that back problems caused the premature end of his production and subsequently career.  There’s no doubt in my mind that he’d be in the Hall of Fame if he had been able to sustain his production for a few more years.  Donnie Baseball will always be a favorite and he’s the reason that I consider the Los Angeles Dodgers to be my favorite NL team.  When Mattingly retired after the 1995 play-off loss to the Seattle Mariners, I became a Mariano Rivera fan.

As I look to life beyond 2013, I cannot say that any one player stands out as a potential favorite player.  But as history has proven to me, the door will open for the next great Yankees superstar to take the stage.

None of this is meant to knock Derek Jeter.  He has been a terrific player for so many years and can match Rivera in depth and quality of character stride for stride.  He’ll be taking his place in Cooperstown one day, but for me, this day is about Mariano Rivera.  Enter the Sandman…Exit the Legend.

I look forward to watching Mo for one more season.  Regardless of the outcome, he is a champion…

–Scott

 

You had me at ‘Yankees win!’…

 

For away games, I prefer to see a Yankees pitcher on the mound for the last out…

Finally, the first win of the year has arrived.  It was a bit delayed in coming, but alas, the victory came with the Yankees’ first game away from Tropicana Field.  Hopefully, the Tampa Bay Rays’ home won’t become a house of horrors for the Yankees this season but it was clear for the first three games of the year that the Rays were the better team.

Still, despite the Yankees’ 0-3 record as they departed Florida (the same mark as the Boston Red Sox at the time of their departure from Detroit), I never felt the sense of doom and despair that usually accompanies losses.  Sometimes, for whatever reason, the momentum of a series goes with one team.  Sure, you can say better hitting and pitching will do it every time, but the Yankees could easily take the series they play against the Rays…or not.  I don’t think the Yankees will sweep their latest opponent, the Baltimore Orioles, even though they’ve won something like 40 out of the last 55 games against them.  But there is no doubt that the Yankees rotation will right the ship.  In Minnesota, where the Twins also lost their opening series by sweep (to the Orioles) and now stand at 0-4 after a home opening loss to the Los Angeles Angels in Minneapolis, there is a sense of dread and gloom already.

While Boston matched the Yankees loss-for-loss, and finally last night, win-for-win, I haven’t sense of feeling of desperation from the Sox fans yet either.  So, it’s clear in both New York and Boston that the fans expect their respective teams to perform (unlike those in the Gopher state).  The main thing I hear from Boston fans is the overwhelming belief that Daniel Bard should be the team’s closer, not former Yankee Alfredo Aceves.  I tend to agree as I’ve always felt that Aceves is better suited for long relief and spot starts.

Back to the Yankees, if you asked me who would pick up the first win among the quartet of CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova, there’s no question that I would not have picked Nova.  I wasn’t crazy about the 10 hits he allowed, but he kept the O’s from scoring as they were only able to push 2 across home plate.  I would never be foolish enough to expect Nova to be a front-of-the-rotation starter, but he is perfectly cast in the back of the rotation and I don’t care what he has to do as long as it produces W’s.  With both Andy Pettitte and Michael Pineda looming on the horizon within the next couple of months, there are two starters who won’t be starting.  If Nova can continue to produce, he increases the possibility that Freddy Garcia and Phil Hughes are the odd men out.

Please tell me more about the medical insurance…

With so many closers on the DL (Drew Storen, Andrew Bailey, and Ryan Madson to name a few), it amazes me that not only has Mariano Rivera thrived at such a high level for so long, he’s done it without too much down time.  It reinforces to me that he should be a first ballot Hall of Famer despite the Hall’s reluctance to bring closers into the fold.  I am still amazed when I think that I was once disappointed that Mariano had been named closer after the departure of John Wetteland (I didn’t want Wetteland to leave via free agency).  Instead, Mo has rewarded me by allowing me to witness one of the all-time Yankee greats.  As a big fan of Lou Gehrig, I love the history and the tradition of the Yankees, and it’s reassuring to know that my grandchildren and their children will hear the name of Mariano Rivera.

A 5-day sabbatical and an apology is fine, but learn from the experience…

I am not quite sure what I think about the Ozzie Guillen fiasco in Miami with his pro-Fidel Castro comments.  I do know that I do not feel he should lose his job so long as he shows remorse and learns from the situation.  We all know that Ozzie is going to say whatever is on his mind and he’s not going to edit it first.  He speaks to provoke reactions and I am not convinced that he always believes what he says.  I know that’s no excuse for making insensitive comments in one of our country’s top Cuban communities.  He needs to realize that his words can and will hurt.  He now has a 5-game suspension to think about what he said.  I don’t think it will put a muzzle on him as he is, after all, Ozzie and there’s no changing that.  But I hope that he embraces Miami’s Cuban community and can show them he is on their side.

I know, sports history is littered with ruined careers thanks to misguided words.  But I hope that we can find forgiveness for Ozzie so long as he doesn’t later give us a reason to regret it.  I know that I will not always agree with Ozzie, but I respect him for being his own man.  So, for those who say fire him, I say keep him.

I am glad that baseball is finally underway.  Now, if just a few more wins could follow….

 

–Scott

 

Enter the Sandman, Exit the Legend…

 

There’s great and then there’s Mo…

Seriously, he didn’t need to record 602 saves to prove that he was baseball’s all-time best closer.  Today, Yankees legend (go ahead and attach the tag) Mariano Rivera became the all-time saves leader, eclipsing former San Diego Padres great Trevor Hoffman by one.  I don’t want to take anything away from Hoffman who clearly was one of baseball’s greats, but he clearly limped to 601 saves in those final years with the Milwaukee Brewers.  Rivera, in contrast, retains his position as one of the best in the game despite his age.  Hoffman’s final year, despite his record 9 years with 40 plus saves, did not include at least that threshold.  Rivera, on the other hand, captured the record with his 43rd save of the season.

Many Yankees fans worship Derek Jeter.  While I admire Jeter, and I am glad that he has spent his career with the Yankees, my favorite current Yankee has been Mariano Rivera.  Going into 1995, my favorite player had been Don Mattingly for a number of years.  Despite his back ailments toward the end of his career, I always appreciated the character and the quality of the individual.  When you think of guys you’d like to emulate, Donnie Baseball was certainly one of those guys.  He was always genuine and sincere, and the one opportunity I had to meet him in person only reaffirmed that he is a quality individual.  When Mattingly retired, I obviously continued to follow the team but I can’t say one player stood out among all others to me.  That is, until Mariano Rivera emerged from the shadow of closer John Wetteland, who departed via free agency after the 1996 season.  At first, I was skeptical to see the break-up of the awesome duo of Rivera-Wetteland.  I loved the way Mo would come into the 8th inning throwing nothing but pure heat with his cutter, and then Wetteland would come on in the 9th like a psycho and retire the side, albeit with a few nervous moments.  After Wetteland moved on to Texas, I wondered if Rivera would be able to make the conversion to closer.  Rich Gossage had been my all-time favorite closer for years, and I didn’t think the team would have another who could match the Goose, let alone exceed him.

Rivera, from the moment I first saw him appear in the Yankee pinstripes through today, has been nothing short of the consummate professional.  He is clearly the type of guy you want to be like.  He accepts and forgets setbacks, and he never gloats in victory.  I have never seen or heard him criticize others, and he has always accepted responsibility (which is huge for me).  I will be sad when Mo takes the mound for the final time, but the way he has continued to pitch, that day isn’t coming any time soon.  It has always been hard for closers to make the Hall of Fame, but I have no doubt that Mo will be a first ballot selection.  Some guys are good, some guys are great, but none of the guys are Mo.

Pleasantly surprised…

Frankly, I am quite surprised the Yankees find themselves in first place with a fairly comfortable lead in the AL East over the Boston Red Sox.  If the Yankees had been able to play at least .500 ball against the Sox this year, they’d have the division clinched by now.  On paper, I really believed that the Sox had the best team.  But of course, you have to play the games, and the Sox have had health challenges that have caused them to fall behind the Yankees.  When the Sox picked up former Seattle pitcher Erik Bedard at the closing deadline, I mistakenly thought it was building excess capacity.  In retrospect, the Red Sox needed more help in the starting rotation, and even over-paying for health risk Rich Harden would have been worth it.  I know that the Red Sox could still rally to capture the AL East flag, particularly considering the Yankees sluggish play of late, combined with the fact that they still have to play the hard charging Tampa Bay Rays seven more times.  But with just a couple of weeks left in the regular season, I’d rather be up 5 games than down by as many.

That schedule hit me like of wind chill of 40 below…

I am closing out my first baseball season as a resident of Minneapolis, and I was able to see the Yankees when they were at Target Field in late August.  Nevertheless, I was a bit dismayed when I saw the 2012 Yankees, and realized that the Yankees wouldn’t make the trip to Minneapolis until late September.  On one hand, you want your team to clinch early, but I hope the team is still playing meaningful baseball when they make the trip to the Twin Cities.

My first season as a “local” Vikings fan is not going so well…

Speaking of Minnesota, life as a Minnesota Vikings fan has definitely not been fun this year.  The Vikings have been a great first half team against both the San Diego Chargers and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but they failed to make the necessary adjustments at halftime.  In both games, a miserable second half led to a close defeat.  As the Vikings stand at 0-2, it’s clear that they could have easily been 2-0.  I am not a fan of Donovan McNabb, but I recognize that having rookie Christian Ponder at QB would not have meant automatic victories.  Teams can rebound from 0-2 starts, but they really need to win this coming weekend.  That’s no small task given the opponent is Matthew Stafford and the Detroit Lions.  No NFC North games are easy, but Lions definitely have the players for an offensive juggernaut.  The Vikings need to reach deep within themselves, and play like they are capable of.  They can beat the Lions, and hopefully they’ll prove that ‘on any given Sunday…’.

Have a great week, everyone!

–Scott

 

Life is Better…When You Are a Yankees Fan…

 

Yankees fans are everywhere…

 

 

Even the Los Angeles Dodgers manager Joe Torre admittedly that he was pulling for the Yankees during the World Series.  Okay, maybe he has good reason, but you can find us Yankee fans in the most unlikely places.  Don’t look now, but the person standing next to you could be a Yankees fan!  ;)

 

 

Of course, in a championship year, that’s the problem.  Suddenly, everyone is a fan.  In the down years, not many people admitted they were Yankees fans.  I have stood by the team through thick and thin, but I recognize that the good times have outweighed the bad times.  As a lifelong fan of the Minnesota Vikings, I knew the heartbreak of championship losses (four Super Bowl losses in the Joe Kapp/Fran Tarkenton eras).  The Vikings have never won a championship and they haven’t been in the Super Bowl since that dreadful 32-14 loss to the Oakland Raiders on January 9, 1977.  I am still haunted by the visions of Brent McClanahan’s fumble, Willie Brown’s 75-yard interception return for a touchdown, and Chuck Foreman sitting on his helmet with a blank expression at the end of the game.

 

 

 

Anyway, I digress.  “Yankees fan” Joe Torre was in New York for his annual Safe at Home foundation benefit dinner, and he indicated he was pleased the Yankees won the World Series.  That was good to hear, particularly considering that he would have every reason to hold bitterness against the Steinbrenners and Yankee top brass for how the end of his managerial reign was handled.  Don’t worry Joe, we would have pulled for you had the situation been reversed.

 

 

 

It does sound like Joe wants to continue to manage beyond 2010.  He is still having fun, but I still think his wife will eventually help him realize that it’s time to step aside and turn over the team to Donnie Baseball.  So, I guess the question is how many World Series championships can Joe Girardi win before Joe Torre retires?  ;)

 

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John Munson/The Star Ledger 

 

I was sad to hear the situation in Texas with former Yankees closer John Wetteland.  The initial reports came out that he was hospitalized for depression and attempted suicide.  His employer, the Seattle Mariners (where he is bullpen coach), stated that the hospitalization was due an elevated heart rate.   Wettleland has since been released from the hospital but regardless of what happened, I hope that he gets the care and treatment that he needs. 

Watching Mariano Rivera set up Wettleland in 1996 was a thrill, and I remember being a bit unsure when the team made Rivera the closer following Wetteland’s free agent departure that winter.  Wetteland was a great Yankee, even if his stay was short.  He deserves much happiness and success, so I hope all goes well in his world.

 

 

Did you see that Derek Jeter has a cameo appearance on Will Ferrell’s next film, “The Other Guys” which also stars Mark Wahlberg?  I guess he’s starting to contemplate a career post-Yankees.  But of course, the Yankees have a few more championships to win before that happens!

 

 

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Hey Derek, stick with the day job!  ;)

 

–Scott

 

 

 

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