Results tagged ‘ Mariano Rivera ’

Babe Ruth was not the greatest Yankee…

 

He has been and always will be my hero…

72 years…

It has been that long since the great Lou Gehrig departed this universe.  Yet, his legacy still burns brightly and strongly throughout the world.  He made a difference on and off the field and his model has continued to set the example for others to live their lives.

June 2, 1941.  I will always remember it as well as August 2, 1979 even if I was only alive for one of those tragic days.  1941 was not a good year for the country nor was it a particularly good year for my family.  My dad’s brother, then 21, died while moving out of his mother’s house after she had “evicted” him when she learned that he had secretly married.  My uncle didn’t carve a life or legacy that others outside of the immediate family will remember, but he strived to be the man that Lou Gehrig.  But like so many, we fail miserably.

Gehrig continues to be my all-time favorite Yankee.  Mariano Rivera has long been my favorite current Yankee, but even he will have to take the bench when compared to Gehrig.  Sorry Mo, I know you are the man that Gehrig was but there is only room for one at the top.

I’ve been a baseball fan since I was about 5 or 6 and read a book about Lou Gehrig.  It was his story that propelled my interest in baseball.  I didn’t become a Yankees fan because of him (I owe that to Catfish Hunter) but I would have never been a Catfish Hunter fan if not for Gehrig.  So, I fully understand that the core root of my love of baseball and the Yankees lies solely with the Iron Horse.

Lou, I miss you even if I didn’t have the opportunity to meet you.  My world is better because you were in it, and I thank you for simply being you.

The Ice Man Cometh…

I have to admit that I was/am a bit concerned about Mark Teixeira’s late start to the season.  Granted, he hit a grand slam in tonight’s win over the Cleveland Indians, but he is a notoriously slow starter.  To start slow at the beginning of June is not good.  Tex needs to hit the ground running.  I can only hope that the grand slam will propel him forward and bypass the usual ice freeze that starts any Teixeira season.  I feel bad for Lyle Overbay.  He’s done everything asked of him, and he has won a few games with his bat.  Now, he takes the back seat to Teixeira which, given the aforementioned history of slow starts, might not be a move for the better…at least in the short run.

As much as I want the return of the other injured players, I still do not want the return of Alex Rodriguez.  I have never dreaded seeing a player put on pinstripes as much as I do him.  Well, maybe Ed Whitson or Carl Pavano, but as for as $30 million a year players go, I’d rather see A-Rod elsewhere.

If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all…

I am still making bets with Julia of the former MLBlog’s Julia Rants.  The latest bet, thanks to the Yankees series failure, has me sporting a picture of Carl Yastrzemski as my profile pic on FaceBook for a week.  Sometimes, I just wish the Yankees would come through for me on these bets!  I am getting tired of getting the short straw…

Oh well, it’s June and we’ve moved past the start of the season.  The Yanks need to shake off the doldrums of getting swept by the New York Mets and the series loss to the Red Sox to propel themselves to a 10-game win streak to regain some momentum…

Let’s go, Guys, we can do this!

–Scott

 

 

Bargain Basement Shopping at its finest…

 

Is that Hal saying “I told you so”?…

Surprised.

That’s the one word which comes to mind when I think of the Yankees’ team play so far in the still very young 2013 season.

Sure, the Yanks have lost a few games they should have won but a week into May and the Yanks stand at 18-12.  They are just a game and a half behind AL East Leader Boston entering tonight’s play.  Maybe the bigger surprise is that the pitching-rich Tampa Bay Rays at 14-16 and “everbody’s pre-season favorite”, the Toronto Blue Jays, are 11-21.  I fully expect changes in the AL East standings as the season progresses but given the hand the Yankees were dealt, they’ve fared much better than expected.

I should be happy that Alex Rodriguez has started his rehab in Tampa, which has included some light hitting.  But of all the injured players, A-Rod is the one that I am not looking forward to returning.  I was hopeful that Kevin Youkilis would have a ‘comeback player of the year’ type of season but it was not meant to be as Youk found his usual spot on the DL.  His injury prompted the Yankees to acquire Colorado Rockies third baseman Chris Nelson to back up former Rockie Jayson Nix.  I honestly cannot say which player I’d prefer at third as neither excites me but I’d still rather see them play than A-Rod.

I assume Curtis Granderson will be the first of the injured to return.  I don’t think anyone expects him to slide back into centerfield but his presence will create challenges for Manager Joe Girardi to find at-bats for Vernon Wells, Brett Gardner, and Ichiro Suzuki.  There’s no way that Travis Hafner is giving up DH with his play.  I feel bad for Brennan Boesch as I like having him on the team.

Mark Teixeira should be back in the not-so-distant futre.  Lyle Overbay is certainly not the player Tex is but Overbay has given the Yanks some early clutch hits that Tex, a notorious slow starter, never could have.

With Derek Jeter out until after the All-Star Break, and Eduardo Nunez proving to be no more capable than a spare, the Yanks do need to bring in a veteran shortstop to plug the hole until DJ is ready to return.

Since it is apparent that Austin Romine is only in New York to “watch”, I’ll be glad when Francisco Cervelli is able to come back and take starts aways from the offensively-challenged Chris Stewart.

I am worried about CC Sabathia’s drop in velocity, like everyone else, and Andy Pettitte’s recent struggles.  There are no great starters waiting the wings.  But in the pen, I was pleased with the 3-up, 3-down debut inning by Preston Claiborne.  In his first major league appearance, he pitched two shutout innings in Sunday’s loss to the Oakland A’s.  He certainly did his part to ensure the Yanks were in the position to win the game in the bottom of the 9th.  It was not to be, but through no fault of Preston’s.

How do you teach Greatness?…

I remember when I first heard that Mariano Rivera would be 43 at the end of his current deal.  I was worried that he’d be unable to sustain his level of superiority.  But, man, was I ever so wrong!  Rivera has long been my favorite active Yankee but time catches up with all…or does it?  Mo continues to astound at his age and has proven that if he wanted to continue to play beyond this season, millions (dollars and fans) would be waiting for him.  A true legend in our lifetime…

A very good day in April…

I was very skeptical when former Miami Dolphins GM Rick Spielman took over as the GM for the Minnesota Vikings, but draft after draft, he has proven to be very astute.  Going into the 2013 NFL Draft, I had hoped for a play-making wide receiver in the first round.  When the Vikings first selection came up at #23, they had no choice but to take DT Sharrif Floyd.  Floyd had been a top 5 pick in many mock drafts and it was a position of need.  At #25, I was hoping for either the play-making wide receiver or a hard-hitting middle linebacker.  The Vikings went with Xavier Rhodes, a cornerback, and it was hard to argue the selection given his height and talent to play with the division’s big receivers.  I felt that the Vikes had missed the opportunity to get a legitimate #2 receiver to go with free agent signee Greg Jennings, but then it was announced that the Vikings had thrown a plethora of picks at the New England Patriots to get the #28 spot which they finally used to grab the play-making wide receiver (Cordarrelle Patterson).  In my years in Dallas, I always remember former head coach of the Cowboys, Jimmy Johnson, talk about “playmakers”.  In the 2013 Draft, Rick Spielman nailed three in the first round.

I’ve always liked Vikings punter Chris Kluwe, but I knew his days were numbered when the Vikings burned a pick on a punter.  The NFL can be a cold, hard business and it is always evitable that someone will lose their job to a younger, cheaper talent.  I cannot find fault in the Vikings decision to part ways with Kluwe but I thank him for his time in Minnesota.  He is a good punter and he won’t be unemployed for long.  Now, if new punter Jeff Locke can have a rookie season like kicker Blair Walsh did last year…

With Matt Cassel now on the roster as the backup QB, the pressure will be squarely on Christian Ponder’s shoulders.  Even if Cassel’s time in KC was less than stellar, I am sure the coaching staff won’t hesitate to pull Ponder if he continues to regress.  I liked the Vikings free agent signing of former Iowa quarterback James Vandenberg.  His senior season was a disappointment, but he was a big-time talent during his junior year.  I am hopeful that he can excel in his opportunities in front of Head Coach Leslie Frazier and his staff.

My heart goes out to Boston…

I have posted on this blog since prior to the Boston Marathon so I am late to the party to add my comments.  However, my heart goes out to all those who were impacted directly or indirectly by the tragic deeds of heartless terrorists.  I will never understand what drove Tamerlan Tsarnaev to his horrific actions or why he chose to ruin his brother’s life in convincing him to participate.  Running in the Boston Marathon has long been a personal goal and it will not dissuade me achieving that goal one day.  I have many friends in Boston and the heart of the city is incredibly tough and resilient.  You don’t have to love the Red Sox to love Boston.  Boston, in my opinion, is the premier city in America.  They will persevere and they’ll never let anyone take their city.  Boston Strong, to the end…

–Scott

 

Hey 2013, here we come, ready or not!…

Time to head North for the Bronx!…

As the Texas Rangers open the American League for business tonight against new AL tenant, the Houston Astros, everybody knows that baseball doesn’t really start until the Yankees play the Red Sox!  But the wait wont’ be long as the Yankees open Yankee Stadium tomorrow against their long-time AL East rival, the Boston Red Sox.  Granted, this is probably going to be a down year for both the Yanks and Sox, but still, it is an exciting rival and one that I look forward to every year.

This time of year, there’s always painful cuts so this year’s unfortunate parting of the ways is with lefty specialist Clay Rapada.  Rapada had been a great find last season as one of those scrap heap signings that worked.  He did his job and he did it well.  There’s no doubt that the Yankees will be able to move Rapada to another team that will appreciate his talents.  The Yankees certainly appreciated what he could do, but in the end, it was a game of numbers, options, and flexibility.  For every player that did make the 2013 Yankees, you can certainly rationalize why each should be a part of the team.

But with Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira, Phil Hughes, and Alex Rodriguez on the disabled list, there will be other notable moves as the Yankees clear space for the ones who return to health this season.  But for now, this the 2013 Yankees:

STARTING PITCHERS

CC Sabathia

Hiroki Kuroda

Andy Pettitte

Ivan Nova

David Phelps

 

RELIEVERS

Mariano Rivera (for the final time…sniff…sniff…)

David Robertson

Joba Chamberlain

Shawn Kelley

Boone Logan

Cody Eppley

Adam Warren

 

CATCHERS

Francisco Cervelli

Chris Stewart

 

INFIELDERS

Lyle Overbay

Robinson Cano

Eduardo Nunez

Kevin Youkilis

Jayson Nix

 

OUTFIELDERS

Brett Gardner

Ichiro Suzuki

Vernon Wells

Brennan Boesch

Ben Francisco

 

DH

Travis Hafner

 

I was a little surprised that Vernon Wells took number 12 to open the season.  While he had stated that he’d get a lower number after taking #56 upon his arrival, 12 seems to be an odd choice.  But then again, with so many retired numbers (and numbers on hold), there aren’t too many options.  Conversely, Lyle Overbay took Hideki Matsui’s old number, #55, which seems better suited for an outfielder.

Everyone has to start somewhere…

Congratulations to Boston rookie Jackie Bradley, Jr. for making the Red Sox opening day roster and his starting assignment in left field tomorrow in the Bronx.  What a great way to kick off one’s career!  Of course, I am hoping that his career firsts (home run, RBI, etc.) occur during Boston’s second series of the season, but it’s exciting to see young, talented players embark on what could be a great career.

While others prepare to exit, with a brief delay or two…

I saw that Jason Bay has made the Seattle Mariners as their fifth outfielder behind former Yank Raul Ibanez.  I am glad for him.  It’s hard not to feel bad for a guy who clearly made the wrong decision to go to the Mets when he left Boston a few years back.  Nothing against the Mets, but it was the wrong park for Bay.  It’s doubtful he’ll ever be anything close to what he was in Boston, but hopefully he can put together a few solid years in the Great Northwest before calling it a career.

He wore the pinstripes proudly…

I saw that Bullet Bob Turley died over the weekend.  It was very sad to hear the news of his passing from liver cancer.  He won 21 games in 1958, and lifted the Yankees in a come from behind World Series championship over the Milwaukee Braves.  Another great Yankee passes but forever remains intertwined into the fabric of Yankee Stadium.

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–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

 

Where’s George Steinbrenner when you need him?…

Missing the point…

Life has been incredibly difficult since the Yankees, expectedly, lost to the Detroit Tigers in the play-offs last October.  While the Angels were adding Josh Hamilton to go with Albert Pujols and Mike Trout and the Dodgers were adding Zack Greinke to go with Clayton Kershaw, the Yankees did nothing.  Okay, they did fork over the cash to bring back senior citizens Andy Pettitte and Hiroki Kuroda, but there was nothing to excite the fan base.

Excite the fan base…

Why is that so difficult?  So, we watch Russell Martin leave for the 2013 version of the 1950’s Kansas City A’s…the Pittsburgh Pirates.  No worries, rather than chase a proven catcher like A.J. Pierzynski, the Yankees announced that they’ll go with an in-house candidate.  So, that leaves a career back-up, a AAA catcher last year, and a minor leaguer who missed most of last season due to injury.  Nick Swisher leaves, but no worry, we have an aging 39-year-old former great player in Ichiro Suzuki who is now sporting more gray hair than Bill Clinton and was clearly a player on decline until a brief renaissance after his trade to the Yankees.

Last year’s closer, Rafael Soriano, departs so what is the response?  We have ace set up man David Robertson returning and a rehabilitating former closer in David Aardsma on the roster.  If memory serves, Robertson was not effective during his brief stint as closer following Mariano Rivera’s season-ending injury.  Plus, Rivera is a not-so-young 43 years old.  He is a first ballot Hall of Famer and my favorite Yankee for a number of years, but time is destined to catch up with even the greatest.

The bench strength (Andruw Jones and Eric Chavez) depart, and the Yankees answer by signing former rival Kevin Youkilis and role player Matt Diaz.  I sent a picture of a clean shaven Youkilis to a Red Sox friend asking if this was really THE Kevin Youkilis (as he looks so less intimidating than those goatee’d Red Sox years).  The response was, “I hear he’s hurt (oblique)…yes, that’s him”.  The only thing I know about Diaz is that he pronounces his name DYE-az rather than DEE-az.  All I ever saw him as was a part-timer for the Atlanta Braves.

We go to camp and the calendar doesn’t even turn to March before we hear that Curtis Granderson is lost for 10 weeks due to a broken forearm.  Immediately, the response from the Yankees is that they’ll cover the loss in-house.  Believe me, I get the reasons for why you wouldn’t chase down Alfonso Soriano or Vernon Wells for 10 measly weeks but Granderson represented a major part of the team’s offense.  You KNOW that Mark Teixera’s bat won’t show up until at least June.  Derek Jeter is another year older and coming off injury. The outfield is full of those Dave Collins type players…speed first, light hitting outfielders.  It’s too bad that Billy Martin isn’t around to consult with Joe Girardi on the fine art of small ball.

My trust in the Yankees farm system to produce a quality major league starter is weak at best.  We hear how great Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances are, yet now we sit with Banuelos recovering from Tommy John surgery and Betances proving himself to be Prince Overrated.  I look at guys like Al Leiter and Doug Drabek.  They struggled when called up to the Yankees but prospered as quality major leaguers elsewhere.  It has been awhile since a Jeter or Robinson Cano burst onto the scene.  So, my faith in the minor league system producing a surprise that immediately helps the Yankees this year is weak.

Today, the news comes out through GM Brian Cashman that the Yankees did make a significant offer to free agent to be Robinson Cano.  Given that the news didn’t say the Yankees actually signed Cano, I see this as a negative move.  If there is resistance on the player’s front, this is most likely going to lead to Cano’s free agency in the fall.  With Hal Steinbrenner’s “financially responsible” approach, that most likely means that some other team makes an incredibly ridiculous offer to snatch Cano from the Bronx.

As I write this, the Yankes are 1-6 in spring training.

Excite the fan base.  Why is that so difficult Mr. Steinbrenner?…

–Scott

Yes, he is A-Fraud…

 

Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice…

I have tried.  Honestly.  I tried to give Alex Rodriguez the benefit of the doubt and I tried to be positive that he was on my favorite team.  But with the latest swirling of PED use rumors, I’m done.  A-Rod’s contract is the albatross of all albatrosses.  He will single-handedly keep the Yankees from winning the World Series over the next couple of years because of how many salary dollars have to be steered his way.  If he was still producing, it would be one thing.  But he’s not.  He is clearly a player in decline who will miss the entire 2013 season.  He’ll be yet another year older in 2014, and it is highly unlikely that he’ll ever be a consistent threat at the plate.

For me, character is a very important component to building a successful team.  When it comes to class and character, A-Rod has none.  He is clearly a narcissistic player who prioritizes personal goals above team goals.  Perhaps I am judging him too harshly, but the cons far outweigh the pros when considering his place on the Yankees roster.  I am happier with an elder veteran, injury-risk third baseman like Kevin Youkilis than seeing A-Rod take the field.

As it sounds like A-Rod intends to keep playing after he recovers from his hip surgery, I am hopeful the Yankees can find a way to free themselves of the #13 baggage.

What, was Darryl Strawberry unavailable?…

With today’s announcement that the Yankees are nearing an agreement with former Cleveland Indians star Travis Hafner, it is hard to be enthused.  This post certainly has a negative spin to it, huh?  Well, anyway, Hafner has seen his better days and is no longer the feared hitter he once was.  It would have been great to have had Hafner, Youkilis and Ichiro Suzuki in 2004 or 2005, but they just don’t look quite as good in 2013.  Hafner can no longer play the field so the Yanks could easily have a glut of DH, no field type players if Youk or other older veterans become slowed by injury or for whatever reason.  In spots, Hafner can probably look good but I am just not confident in the starting lineup’s ability to stay healthy.

I know the Yankees still have a very good offensive lineup and an effective starting rotation, but has the rest of the league passed them by?  That’s a question that will have to be answered when the games begin, but the potential is certainly there.

This has been a long off-season without much to be excited about if you are a Yankees fan.  I am hopeful that someone like catcher Austin Romine will step forward in spring training and prove that he’s ready for major league fastballs.  I am anxiously looking forward to the arrival of outfielder Slade Heathcott but he’s still a year or two away.

The right way to kick off the season…

As a Yankees fan, it’s hard to like the Boston Red Sox.  But I really like the excitement and energy that goes into their annual Truck Day when the equipment truck loads up and heads for Florida.  It’s a great signal for the start of the upcoming season and it certainly helps get one into a baseball frame of mind after a winter of football and basketball.  I’d say hockey but they decided to take most of the season off until the recent return.  My Red Sox friends always get so jazzed this time of year and to a degree, I am envious.

End of the season celebration…

I am happy for Andy Pettitte that he will be able to end what will most likely be his final season with a series in Houston.  It does seem strange that the Yankees would be playing the Astros at the end of September as opposed to the Red Sox or Rays, but this should be a fun season for Andy.  I am also braced for what could be the final year for legendary closer Mariano Rivera.  So if both Andy and Mo depart, it will be special to watch them this year.  Those are two guys I hope are annual fixtures on Old Timer’s Day.

I think I’ll go with Harbaugh…

I live in the Bay Area so I should be supportive of the San Francisco 49ers in Sunday’s Super Bowl, but I am really undecided.  As a Minnesota Vikings fan, I do not have any attachments to the 49ers other than geographical location.  As I study the teams, they seem evenly matched and both have exciting young quarterbacks.  The Ravens have the added emotional incentive of the final game for future Hall of Famer Ray Lewis (yes, Denver, a team is finally throwing Lewis a retirement party).  To me, it comes down to the coaches.  I think Jim Harbaugh is a good coach, but coach-to-coach, brother-to-brother, I think John Harbaugh is the better coach.  Jim may have had the more successful playing career, but there are not many guys that understand the game like John.  I won’t be disappointed regardless of the result.  Both teams are deserving of victory.  There’s no one that I love to hate associated with this game, so it will be a good one to just watch and enjoy.  But I give the edge to the Ravens because of John…

And, finally…

By the way, congratulations to Vikings TE Kyle Rudolph for being named MVP of the Pro Bowl.  He can be a very effective weapon for QB Christian Ponder going forward.  I always loved the relationship between former Dallas Cowboys QB Troy Aikman and TE Jay Novacek (or even the Patriots’ QB Tom Brady and TE Rob Gronkowski).  Rudolph can be that type of guy for Ponder.  If they are successful, maybe I can watch the Vikings in the Super Bowl for the first time since I was a kid…

Happy February!

–Scott

 

 

A Magical and Memorable Day…

 

A Legend among Legends…

Most baseball fans remember attending their first major league baseball game.  For many of us, it happened during our childhoods so it was a special event to spend time with a parent, grand-parent or older sibling.  In my case, I attended my first game with my step-father.  My own father had died a few years earlier and he did not have the health in his final years to take me to any games.

I was excited when my step-father informed me that we could be traveling to St Louis by bus to see the Cardinals play.  My step-father had been a life-long Cardinals fan so he was probably as thrilled about the trip as I was.  My step-father had been very active with the local Elks club chapter, as a member and officer of the organization.  The bus trip to St Louis, a five hour drive, had been sponsored by the Elks club.  I am not sure why that’s relevant to this post, but it’s probably just a tribute to my step-father for the passion and support he gave the Elks over the years.

The date of the game was May 29, 1974, and it featured the Los Angeles Dodgers against the St Louis Cardinals.  It was a nice spring Missouri day at the old Busch Stadium, with the Arch looming in the background.  When I look back, I am in complete awe of the players who took the field that day.  At that point of my childhood, I considered myself a bigger football than baseball fan.  Like many of my friends, my favorite baseball team were the Oakland A’s.  I would not become a Yankees fan until the end of the year when A’s starting pitcher and Hall of Famer Jim “Catfish” Hunter would leave Oakland as a free agent to sign with the Yankees.

Thinking about the game, several players stood out to me that day as a kid attending my first professional game.  I was mesmerized by the Dodgers starting pitcher (and future Yankee) Tommy John and his pitching motion.  Surprisingly, I remember John more that day than the starter for the Cardinals, the legendary Bob Gibson.

For the Cardinals, centerfielder Bake McBride made the biggest impression…well, at least until the latter innings.  I thought the name “Bake” was rather cool, and he seemed to move effortlessly with great speed in the field.  He did not do anything with his bat that day, but I enjoyed the grace he displayed in the field.  Late in the game, the Cardinals brought in closer Al “The Mad Hungarian” Hrabosky even though they were trailing.  The intensity that Hrabosky brought to the game when he entered to pitch still gives me chills.  He brought the crowd alive, and although the Cardinals would lose the game, 5-2, Hrabosky made me a believer and he became my first favorite closer. I would have subsequent trips to St Louis and I always loved watching Hrabosky pitch while he was in his prime.  I think I’ve always had a favorite closer through the years as a result.  Rich “Goose” Gossage and Mariano Rivera are two other all-time favorites.

The memory of these players vastly overlooks the legends on the field that day (as I now recognize).  The Dodgers were managed by the great Walter Alston, while the Cardinals were led by long-time manager Red Schoendienst.  Some of the Dodger names that would have prominent roles in the ’77 and ’78 World Series agains the Yankees were there…Steve Garvey, Bill Russell, Ron Cey and Steve Yeager.  The Cardinals had Joe Torre at first and Ted Simmons behind the plate.  It is amazing how differently the game looks to me today as I recall it as opposed to my perception in May 1974.  I was blessed with the opportunity to see so many legends that day.

As memorable as the game was for me, it was, believe it or not, a trip to the restroom that has endured the test of time as one of my all-time favorite baseball moments.  It was the fourth inning and I made my way to the restroom.  Over the speakers, I heard that I missed the opportunity to see my first home run as Ron Cey connected off Gibson.  After using the restroom, I was walking down the corridor back toward my seat.  I saw a line of people waiting to see a guy who was signing baseballs and books.  There were actually two guys signing autographs.  I went to the shorter line, and it was famed St Louis Post-Dispatch sports writer Bob Broeg.  Nothing against Broeg, but I was more intrigued by the other gentleman as he was garnering the most attention.  After getting Broeg’s autograph, I got in the other line and worked up my way up to shake hands with none other than the legendary Stan “The Man” Musial.  I had been familiar with who Musial was through my step-father as he always spoke very fondly of the Cardinals great.  I was in awe but admittedly I did not appreciate the moment at the time in the way I do today.  Mr. Musial was very kind to me and it is an encounter that I will never forget.  I can still remember going back to my seat and telling my step-father, “I just met Stan ‘The Man’ Musial!”.

I was very saddened to hear the news of Musial’s passing this weekend.  I have always been grateful for the few minutes I had with him and he’ll always hold a special place for me as one of my all-time favorite players.  He will be missed and as many have written, he was “The Man”…

–Scott

 

Mr Rightfielder, are you out there?…

Why not dream big?…

Admittedly, I keep hoping the Yankees announce the acquisition of a proven slugger for right field, but the realist in me knows that the Yankees are truly serious about getting salaries beneath $189 million by next year.

I’ve also come to realize that whenever the Yankees are publicly attached to a certain player through rumors or expressed interest, those deals rarely come to fruition.  Such was the case with Washington Nationals first baseman/outfielder Michael Morse who was subsequently dealt to the Seattle Mariners.  I thought Morse would have been a good replacement for the departed Nick Swisher, but the Yankees obviously felt the cost in terms of prospects was too much.  Of the remaining options, there’s always the chance that GM Brian Cashman can parlay his good relationship with Arizona Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers into a deal for outfielder Justin Upton.  I am really not enamored with other possibilities like Vernon Wells.

I guess I am still waiting for that next Paul O’Neill type of deal to bring a fixture to right for years to come…

What if Boston’s acquisition of A-Rod had come true so many years ago…

Before I write these next words, please know that I am not a fan of Alex Rodriguez.  Therefore, my words about him will always be jaded.  My personal opinion is that A-Rod was as immersed into PED’s as the newly admitted doper Lance Armstrong.  I look forward to the day when A-Rod no longer wears the pinstripes.  When the reports about A-Rod’s ailing hip came to light, there were comments by his doctor that it was directly attributable to his poor play late last season.  But today, the news headline is that the cartilage damage was “less than expected”.  So, of course, my immediate thought was maybe the hip had nothing to do with A-Rod’s performance…he just tanked it as he always does in pressure situations.  The man who lives for his own personal stats is not a friend of mine and certainly not someone I want on my team.

Yogi Berra’s heir-apparent…

I am very pleased to see Jorge Posada accepting an invitation to spring training as a guest instructor.  There’s no doubt his exit from the Yankees could have been handled much better, but it is time to make amends and to embrace Jorge as a Yankees Legend.  Without question, the uncertainty of the 2013 starting catcher is a great opportunity for Jorge to mentor the right candidate for the job.  I think the starter will be Francisco Cervelli or Cervelli in a platoon with another catcher.  As much as I like Austin Romine, it’s just not quite his time yet.  Welcome back to the fold, Jorge!  Hip-hip, Jorge!

Andy, just say “no”…

I know that Andy Pettitte has not committed to the WBC or Team USA yet, but I really hope that it does not happen.  I am not convinced that the Yankees can get an entire season out of Pettitte who missed part of last year due to injury.  I do feel that 2013 most likely will be Andy’s last season so I hope that we can get the best possible Andy for his swan song.

I guess Jenny Craig does work…

After seeing all those photos of “fat” Derek a month or so ago, it’s clear from current photos that he’s in pristine condition and ready to take the field.  Derek has never been my favorite player (sorry, but Mariano Rivera has held that position since 1996), but he’s a future Hall of Famer and his number will be between Billy Martin and Babe Ruth in Monument Park after his playing days are over.  Derek has impressed me with many things over the years but his renaissance after talk he was declining shows how truly special the player is.  I have trust in DJ to know that when his time comes, he will walk away.  He will never be a burden to the Yankees roster…unlike his teammate to his right.

Youk!…

Back to A-Rod, I really hope that Kevin Youkilis holds third base for the entire season…

My favorite manager is…

I can’t help but think the stars are aligning perfectly for Don Mattingly to return to the Yankees as manager.  I do like Joe Girardi and I’d be in favor of an extension, but the Yankees’ sudden budget conservatism places the Yankees in a potential “letdown” season.  If the team loses, can Girardi hold his job?  Meanwhile, baseball’s new salary leaders, the Los Angeles Dodgers, have soared expectations to unimagined heights.  So, if the Dodgers underachieve, is Mattingly a potential fatality?  Mattingly has become a good manager so if the circumstances yield a result with Girardi unemployed and Donnie Baseball available, is #23 the next manager of the Yankees?  It could certainly happen.  As a huge Donnie Baseball fan, I’d like to see this outcome.  Sorry Joe…

Spring training is getting closer and closer.  I am ready…

–Scott

Are Youk freakin’ serious?…

 

Sleeping with the Enemy…

News that the Yankees have signed veteran third baseman Kevin Youkilis have not been well received in the Yankees Universe…obviously.  Sure, there have been a few ex-Boston Red Sox players make their way to the Bronx but certainly none who have been as despised as Youk.  His crime?  Playing with passion and all-out perseverance to find ways to beat the Yankees.  He is one of those tough, gritty players that are relentless and when they smell blood, it’s over.  Youk has struggled with injuries in recent years and he had a falling out with former Sox manager Bobby Valentine, who has historically taken to gritty players.  I know, there is the stat line that he only got one hit in his final 59 at-bats with the Chicago White Sox last season.  Nevertheless, I am willing to give Youk a chance.

Admittedly, I am not an Alex Rodriguez fan and I am still bent the Yankees didn’t let him walk away when he opted out of his first mega contract.  But with third base possibilities such as Eric Chavez and Jeff Keppinger signing elsewhere, the Yankees had to do something given that A-Rod will be lost for most of the season due to his upcoming hip surgery.  Going to camp with Eduardo Nunez as the starting third baseman, given the team doesn’t have a starting catcher or right fielder, was not appealing in any way.  No one really knows how A-Rod will play next season when or if he returns, so odds are they need a solid third baseman for the entire season.  With Youk on board, the Yanks still need to get insurance at third in case Youk goes down.  But I think as long as he gets sufficient rest, he’ll stay healthy and be an effective part of the Yankees lineup.

When Youk homers for the first time against the Red Sox, I am sure that the Yankee cheers will come around.  Yankee fans love players who play with passion so long as the player is on their team.  It will always be hard to look at Youk and not think of the 2004 World Champion Red Sox, but he is not the same player he was then and this is a new chapter in his life.  When he walks away from the game, he will be remembered as part of the Red Sox organization but for a year or two, he can certainly make an effective contribution for the home team.

There are guys on the current Red Sox roster that I have great respect for, like Jon Lester and Dustin Pedroia.  Youk was one of those guys.  Sure, I hated the guy in difficult games between the Yankees and Red Sox, but I always had a quiet respect for him.  Of course, this could all be premature as Youk still has to pass a physical but I look forward to seeing what he can do in the Bronx sans the famed goatee.  It will also be interesting to see if the Yankees continue to hold #20 in reserve out of respect for Jorge Posada or if they assign it to Youk given it was his number in Boston and Chicago.  I suspect he’ll end up with something other than #20, but until it happens, you never know.

I saw a quote in George King’s column in The New York Post from Mariano Rivera that I agree with completely:  “Yankee (fans) didn’t like him but he was wearing a Red Sox uniform.  I can’t decide for them but he will be my teammate and I have to respect him for that.”  Youk is a Yankee, and like Mo, I respect him for that.

Ichiro, Part II…

All indications are the Yankees will be coming to terms with Ichiro Suzuki on a new deal to keep him in the Bronx.  The question is whether it will be one or two years.  At 39, I’d probably prefer a one year deal so that the team can reassess its options at the end of the year.  Every move has been made with the intent to get the payroll under $189 million by 2014 for luxury tax purposes and a second year for Ichiro would erode into the dollars available for any talent upgrades next off-season.

As it stands, I do not like an outfield of Brett Gardner, Curtis Granderson and Ichiro, but I will be interested to see who they bring in as the fourth outfielder.  Perhaps that individual will solidify this outfield corps into a strong and powerful unit.  I am not opposed to trading Granderson and moving Gardner to center, but the Yankees would need to replace his offensive production elsewhere in the lineup.  All signs so far this winter indicate the Yankees will not do anything to the extreme.  Yes, they could still swoop in with a blockbuster trade, but I highly doubt it.  The sad part is the current Yankees roster is not as strong as last year’s squad, while the Toronto Blue Jays and Boston Red Sox have clearly improved.  Tampa Bay may have traded a top starting pitcher in James Shields, but they picked up one of the best prospects in baseball in Wil Myers.  Tampa also seems to be able to pull aces out of their farm system every year so there’s no doubt they’ll find a capable replacement for Shields.  Baltimore hasn’t made any major moves but they still have the team to over-achieve.  I do not know what next year will bring.  The Yankees still have December and January to improve, but the likelihood diminishes with each passing day.  If the Yankees falter in 2013, what does 2014 look like?  I can’t see the team suddenly reversing course and going into “Dodger” mode to sign free agents.  I think the Yankees will remain competitive, but I am not convinced they have the horses to win the World Series.

Maybe the All-Star Game should be the Dodgers against everyone else…

My favorite National League team is the Los Angeles Dodgers, but I am struggling with the thought of cheering for the two highest payrolls in baseball.  My affection for the Dodgers is primarily because of my long-time hero, Don Mattingly, but the huge salary outlay by the Dodgers will create unrealistic expectations in Dodgerland and it will be tough for Donnie Baseball if the Dodgers struggle.  I remain hopeful that he’ll one day find his way back to the Bronx to manage, but I am not pulling for him to get fired next year.  I am not sure who I would pull for in the NL if not the Dodgers.  I live in the Bay Area so there’s always the San Francisco Giants, but they’ve won the World Series in two of the last three years and I don’t want to jump on the bandwagon.  My fallback has always been the St Louis Cardinals because that’s where I experienced attending my first major league baseball game as a teenager so many years ago.  I suppose that I’ll stick with the Dodgers as long as Mattingly is there, but Magic Johnson and company have certainly made it more challenging by their willingness to spend excessively.

Why does February 12th (when pitchers and catchers report) seem so close yet so far away?…

–Scott

 

Getting bug bites while lying in the weeds…

What to believe?…

Admittedly, I am concerned with the Yankees’ desire to get under $189 million in payroll by 2014, and what it will mean to the team in the long run.  Granted, many teams would love to struggle with the wherewithal to afford a payroll of $189 million, but the Yankees have $30 million tied up in annual salary to Alex Rodriguez and he’s hardly the player he once was.  As it stands, the Yankees need to find a quality, effective third baseman to play behind a guy who absorbs so much of the team’s payroll budget.  So, how much do the Yankees actually have to pay just to cover third base?  Obviously, the answer is a lot more than $30 million.

Granted, the Yankees are not about to become the new Minnesota Twins or Kansas City Royals, but to those teams’ defenses, they have better minor league systems at the moment (particularly the Royals).  In a statement of the obvious, the quickest way to reduce payroll is to replace highly paid, unproductive veterans with cheap, inexpensive young talent.  While there is quality youth in the Yankees’ farm system, most are at the lower levels.  The highly rated AAA prospects have stalled for various reasons, like Manny Banuelos and his Tommy John surgery.  A trade for young, inexpensive talent is not out of the question, but so far this off-season, the Yankees have been very quiet.  I do understand it when GM Brian Cashman says that you have to a tortoise and a hare.  Striking too quickly can be more expensive in some situations.  It is a never-ending balancing act.  Strike quick when you must, lay in the weeds when you can.

Is it time for Romine?…

While I am disappointed to see catcher Russell Martin depart (signing a two year contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates), I realize that I won’t miss his .211 batting average.  At times, he was a force in the lineup with his bat, but other times, he completely disappeared.  The only downside is the lack of replacement talent at the major league level.  I do not feel that perennial backups Chris Stewart or Francisco Cervelli are starter material.  After a lost year due to injury, all indications are that Austin Romine needs another year of AAA seasoning.  At this point, I am probably with those who feel Romine should be given a legitimate shot at the job in spring training.  He has the pedigree (his father is former Red Sox player Kevin Romine) and he is 24 years old.  If he is healthy, he deserves a shot and certainly has more upside than the other catchers on the roster.

Regarding the loss of Martin, Cashman’s quote was “This isn’t something that caught us off-guard”¹.  Clearly, the Yankees have already identified a plan of action in the event Martin left.  But it will probably fall into the tortoise category.

Maybe Jenny Craig should be hired as a second bench coach…

This past week also brought forward a photo of a seemingly overweight Derek Jeter.  Staying with quotes from Brian Cashman, “It’s probably a wrinkle in the shirt”².  Hmmm, right…

 

 	November 29, 2012: Derek Jeter is seen limping around a South Beach hotel pool wearing a cast after surgery on his fractured left ankle today in Miami Beach, Florida.

INF PHOTO, New York Daily News

I have no reason to believe that Derek Jeter will not arrive at spring training in shape, but it’s tougher as you get older and having a foot in a cast is not ideal for physical workouts.  So, I guess that quality, effective third baseman we need for third had better be able to play short too.

Now playing in right field…

The Yankees have chosen not to be players for any major free agents.  It doesn’t mean that I think they should throw millions at Josh Hamilton, but they do need to find a quality replacement for departing right fielder Nick Swisher.  Plugging in an aging veteran is not the answer.  Hamilton is not old, but there are lower risk and lesser paid options available.

The sleeping giant or the ‘Feeble 40’?…

Brian Cashman says, “We’re still capable of a lot.  People should be leery of us and afraid of us, as if we’re the stalking horse”³.  I really hope so, but it appears to me that the 2013 roster will feature highly paid but underproductive veterans, supplemented by waiver signings and minor leaguers.  That might be a bit extreme, but it does feel that way at the moment.  I do not want to take away anything from the recent re-signings of Andy Pettitte, Hiroki Kuroda and Mariano Rivera, but the fact remains that all three are at the tail end of their respective careers. They’ll be serviceable major league players in 2013, and perhaps will shine at times, but they need help.  “40” is not necessarily the new “30”.

With the baseball winter meetings next week, we should start to see some moves unfold.  The Yankees need to strengthen their roster and put a team on the field next year that is capable of overcoming the Detroit Tigers (among other teams).  They also need to somehow excite the fan base.  George Steinbrenner felt like the master showman at a Barnum and Bailey Circus, whereas Hal Steinbrenner comes across as a nebbish bookworm (even if he really is not).  Yes, Yankee fans are spoiled but it’s also one of the largest fan bases if not the largest.  Rupert Murdoch would not have invested so much money into the YES Network if he believed the team was headed for a downward spiral.  But the truth remains that if left unchanged, the current roster is no better than third in the AL East and perhaps headed for worse in 2014 when guys like Pettitte, Kuroda and Rivera are settling into their retirement homes and the team makes the moves necessary to come in under the $189 million wire.

Despite my pessimistic comments, I do believe that the Yankees will do the right thing in the end.  I am confident the team that takes the field next April will be one capable of competing with the league’s best.  I guess maybe I always preferred the hare over the tortoise…

–Scott

 

¹ Source:  The New York Post

² Source:  The New York Daily News

³ Source:  The LoHud Yankees Blog

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