Game 112: NYY vs. CHW — #CCStrong, Andu power, 20 Ks, & 13 innings

Four hours and 26 minutes, 13 innings, it was one of those games. This game only really became a pain due to a single pitch, already in extra innings. And both teams certainly fought hard for this one.

The White Sox just came off an away sweep of the Rays, so their team morale was high going into this series. Last night’s game was more characteristic of how they’ve played all year, but tonight’s was reminiscent of how they played over the weekend. In other words, the White Sox finding themselves came about 4 months too late for them but just in time to push other teams to work harder. And I’m always personally for a challenge and better competition.

CC Sabathia got the start for the middle game of this series in Chicago, throwing 103 pitches into the 6th inning, giving up 4 hits, 3 walks, and just 1 run, while striking out an impressive 12 batters. (Sabathia is certainly racking up his own career statistics this year, currently sitting at 17th on the all-time strike out leaders with his 2,945 just behind legends like John Smoltz, Curt Schilling, Bob Gibson, and Pedro Martinez.)

Sabathia’s lone allowed run was in the 3rd. A lead-off walk ended up at 3rd on a 1-out double and then scored a long sacrifice fly. Green came on to close out the 6th once Sabathia reached his limit, and set a nice pattern for the bullpen. Robertson, Betances, and Holder (who really needed a good outing) all threw clean, scoreless innings to keep the home team at that lone run.

The Yankees, however, were held off for much of the game, reduced to just 2 hits and 2 walks through the first 6 innings. Though there were a few that could have been beautiful home runs without a center fielder that insisted on becoming Spider-man to bring them back over the wall. But then Miguel Andujar smacked the first pitch of the 7th inning into the left field seats to tie up the game with his 15th home run this season.

With the game tied, the 10th inning became a reality, and the Yankees found their next big opportunity. Gardner worked a 1-out walk, and with 2 outs, the White Sox changed pitchers to face Stanton. That worked out in the Yankees’ favor as Giancarlo smacked a 2-run home run to break the tie and had many Sox fans heading for the exits.

What do we always say? Don’t leave until the last out… because the bottom of the 10th inning changed the game again.

The Yankees needed a reliable closer to declare victory, so logic dictated Zach Britton. He barely hit the first batter who promptly moved to 2nd and then 3rd on 2 wild pitches. Two outs and down to his last strike, Britton made the mistake of leaving a pitch too high in the zone and it became a huge 2-run home run to tie up the game and reward the faithful Sox fans waiting for that last out.

Not knowing how much longer this game could be, the Yankees turned to an old friend in a new position to make a difference — Sonny Gray, the Yankees newest long-reliever. Gray came through in the best way, throwing through the next 3 innings, keeping the Sox scoreless, and (more importantly) earning the win in tonight’s game.

Of course, to do this, the Yankees found opportunity #3 in the top of the 13th inning. With 1 out and the 2nd pitcher in the inning, Didi Gregorius worked a walk, moved to 2nd on Voit’s single, and then scored from 2nd when Miguel Andujar hit a solid single to put the Yankees back in the lead. Gray’s quick 3 outs in the bottom of the inning solidified the win, ending with the 20th (!) strikeout of the game.

Final score: 4-3 Yankees, in 13 innings

The Yankees announced that they would be celebrating the 20th anniversary of the 1998 Championship team on Saturday, August 18, before the game against the Blue Jays. They also announced that legends from that team would appear like Rivera, Posada, Pettitte, Williams, Martinez, O’Neill, Cone, Wells, and manager Joe Torre. Jeter and Brosius (the 1998 World Series MVP) would be sending in video messages, unable to attend due to their current commitments to their new teams (Marlins and Mariners, respectively).

And if you’ve been wondering about a certain Yankees outfielder who’s been noticeably absent this entire season, the Yankees announced that Jacoby Ellsbury had surgery on his left hip on Monday to repair the torn labrum there. It was something they were hoping to avoid, hoping the body would heal itself without resorting to surgery, but they got to the end of that possibility and made the decision to proceed. It will take roughly 6 months to recover, so he potentially could be back by Spring Training 2019.

Go Yankees!

Hall of Fame near miss & other random off-season moments

After several months of speculation and journalists openly sharing their votes, the Baseball Writers Association of America released the much-anticipated results of the annual Hall of Fame election. In December, the Veterans Committee selected 4-time World Series pitcher Jack Norris (1984 Tigers, 1991 Twins, 1992-93 Blue Jays) and his 1984 Tigers’ teammate, 6-time All-Star shortstop and 1984 World Series MVP, Alan Trammel. Joining them, the BBWAA announced newest inductees Chipper Jones, Jim Thome, Trevor Hoffman, and Vladimir Guerrero, all well-deserved honorees.

Elected with 97.2% of the vote, Jones spent his entire 19 year career with the Braves at 3rd base and became a fixture in the Atlanta area. He was part of the 1995, 1996, and 1999 World Series teams, winning a ring with the Hall of Fame worthy 1995 team against the Indians. (Jones joins other 1995 Braves teammates Tom Glavine and Greg Maddox (HOF class of 2014) and John Smoltz (class of 2015) at Cooperstown.) Jones also earned the NL MVP Award in 1999 and was an 8-time All-Star.

{Worth reminding my primary audience here: the Braves team in 1996 and 1999 faced and lost to the last dynasty of the Yankees. It was 6 games in the 1996 series, before they were swept in the 1999 series by the unstoppable Yankees that year.}

On the other side of that World Series was a noted 1st baseman and fellow 2018 inductee Jim Thome (89.8% of the votes). Thome spent his 22 year career primarily with the Indians (1991-2002, 2011), helping them reach the 1995 and 1997 World Series but failed to get a ring (losing to the Braves and Marlins, respectively). Over the course of his career, he was a 5-time All-Star and led the National League with 47 home runs in his 2003 season with the Phillies. Thome also won the 2002 Roberto Clemente Award for his outstanding contributions both on the field and off.

Reliever Hoffman (79.9%) spent the bulk of his 18 year with the Padres (1993-2008), including the year they met the Yankees in the World Series in 1998. The Yankees swept them in 4 games (again, part of that unstoppable dynasty era). But Hoffman still made quite the impact in his career as a 7-time All-Star and leading the NL in saves both in 1998 (with 53) and in 2006 (with 46).

Guerrero (92.9%) spent his 16 year career in the outfield, the bulk of which first with the Expos (1996-2003) and then with the Angels (2004-2009). He also got a shot at the World Series with the 2010 Rangers, but they fell to the Giants that year. Guerrero was a 9-time All-Star and 2004 AL MVP. He also polishes his well-earned 8 Silver Slugger Awards in his trophy case as part of his career accomplishments.

Falling just short of the 75% of the votes needed included Yankee pitcher Mike Mussina, getting 63.5% . Any player receiving less than 5% of the votes are automatically dropped from the ballot the following year (including former Yankees Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui). However, those above 5% and less than 75% move on to hope for another year including Mussina, Roger Clemens (57.3%), Gary Sheffield (11.1%), and Andruw Jones (7.3%). Mussina keeps missing the mark, while Clemens battles the rumors of his past PED use, similar to Giants legend Barry Bonds (who fell short at 56.4%).

It is also worth noting that there were 422 submitted ballots, including 1 left intentionally blank (because where would the fun be in someone getting elected with 100% of the votes). Of those, only 12 ballots didn’t elect Jones, which is why he only got 97% of the vote. Notably, there was also one voter that only voted for Indians alumni (Thome and Omar Vizquel). And if you’re feeling a weird flashback to high school elections for prom court or student council, you’re 100% on track. Some people use their vote to make a point (the blank ballot or all Indians ballot), some to play favorites (a few intentionally anti-Yankee alumni), and some thought through the process of such an honor and chose players that rightfully deserve legacy status. I have mixed feelings every year — I agree every time with who will be feted in July, but I am always irked by who “falls short” due to those who vote in the first two categories.

No, I don’t have a vote. But I do have an opinion.

In lighter news, and back to focusing on Yankees, the off-season has been pretty good for the boys. They’ve been working out, having fun on the practice fields, and enjoying fan art. Meanwhile, the biggest end of season trend last year was Gary the “Thumbs Down” Guy, a Mets fan who flashed the “thumbs down” during a Todd Frazier home run at the special game at CitiField in September. It became a huge meme and thing for the Yankees to do during something amazing and gave New Yorker Gary Dunaier his 15 minutes of fame (or rather 4 months and counting). Frazier and Dunaier finally met earlier this week at an event on Staten Island.

Legend-in-the-making and video game cover guy Aaron Judge got to practice his swing (and bat flip) in a motion-capture suit. He will premier on the cover of MLB The Show 2018 and show off his home run swing for Play Station come March 27 (or March 23 for pre-orders). I’m sure video game players are eagerly awaiting the chance to be the 2017 Rookie of the Year, but I’m just looking forward to the real live player in Spring Training next month.

In Yankees’ Minor League news: The Yankees AA team, the Trenton Thunder, will honor its 25th anniversary this year by playing every Friday game as the “Trenton Pork Rolls“, starting May 18. I swear this is not a “fake” story. Apparently, it’s a local thing, the pork roll, and I’m sure it’s delicious (albeit not very Kosher). And sadly, that is not the weirdest name (and this doesn’t include the Jumbo Shrimp and the Baby Cakes) of a minor league team in the system. And fortunately, it’s only on Fridays. (But what a thing to have on your resume!)

Meanwhile, the Advanced-A Yankees affiliate (and current Steinbrenner Field residents), the Tampa Yankees, made the announcement last month that they would begin the 2018 season with their own name change — the Tampa Tarpons. The Tarpons were a team for about 3 decades in the middle of last century, though baseball has been played in Tampa for over 100 years, including extensively hosting Spring Training. Locally, the tarpon is a large fish, popular with sports fisherman and found off the Gulf Coast, and a neighboring local city is Tarpon Springs. So the Tampa Tarpons found something steeped in local tradition and lore.

The 2018 season is rapidly approaching. 20 days until pitchers and catchers report (Feb. 13). 30 days until the first Spring Training game (Feb. 23 against the Tigers). 65 days until the first game of the season (March 29 in Toronto). And 69 days until the home opener (April 2 against the Rays).

But who’s counting?

Go Yankees!

This day in Yankee history (The World Series Edition)

First, two Yankee legends are celebrating their birthdays today…

Whitey Ford is 85 today. Ford was a great pitcher of the “Golden Era”; teammates with other legends like Berra, Mantle, DiMaggio, Rizzuto, Howard, Larsen, and Maris; part of the legendary 1961 team; 10-time All-Star, 6-time World Series champion, Cy Young Award winner (1961), World Series MVP (1961), and inducted into the Baseball Hall-of-Fame; served in Korea at the beginning of his career, taking 2 full years off from baseball to serve his country, and returned better than ever; and has #16 retired in his honor in Monument Park.

And John Flaherty turns 46 today. Flaherty is probably most known to Yankee fans today as one of the regular sports broadcasters and a frequent analyst on many of the regular programming on the Yankees’ YES Network channel. But Flaherty also played for the Yankees at the tail end of his career through the contentious year against his former team, the Red Sox (2003-2005), serving as the back-up catcher for Posada.

A happy birthday to both Yankees!

Now, this day in Yankee history, being so late in the year means we have a special “World Series Edition” for today’s history lesson.

1998yankees
1998 World Series
Win #24 for the Yankees
via Google Images

In the postseason, they swept the Rangers in the ALDS, took the ALCS from the Indians (4-2), and then swept the Padres on this day 15 years ago. It was their 24th World Series title, their second in three years, and their first of three consecutive titles. It was a sign that this dynasty wasn’t a fluke. Torre’s team was here to stay, and they weren’t opposed to making a huge splash. Including the postseason, the ’98 team won 125 games (just 50 losses), setting an MLB record, passing the previous record of 118 set by the 1906 Cubs or 116 set by the 1986 Mets (depending on your sources).

I think it’s only fitting that Game 4 of the 1998 Series (today’s memory) found recently retired Pettitte and Rivera on the mound in a shut-out game of the Padres. (Pettitte threw 7.1 innings, Nelson threw to 1 batter in the 8th to split up the outs, and Rivera got a 4-out save.)

I was having probably a little too much fun researching, reviewing, reading, and remembering the 1998 team. They were virtually unstoppable. That team is often compared to the 1927 team, which I understand based on knowing all sorts of basic information like the greatest sports teams ever in all of history. But seeing as I wasn’t alive to watch the 1927 team personally (or the 1961 team, which is of course another highly regarded team in Yankee history), for me, it was the 1998 team. Everything just lined up for them, and it was an honor to watch this team in action. And then, of course, repeat similar seasons over the next two years.

1998 doesn’t seem like that long ago, but 15 years certainly does. Maybe all of us alive (and conscious of Yankee greatness) in 1998 are still looking to somehow magically create that same team once again. But maybe the team that will be the next “great team” were just children then or even (in worse case scenario) just children now, but they are out there. The same club that created Murders’ Row in the 20’s, the M&M boys in the 60’s, and the Core Four in the 90’s is going to churn out the next great generation of baseball players at some point. We are just anxiously awaiting that honor of watching them succeed at the highest level once again. History always repeats itself, and it will again. It’s never an “if” with the Yankees, but always a “when”.

Go Yankees!