Game 161: NYY vs. TEX — 6th inning spirals into big loss

Yankee fans in the crowd tonight at Arlington watched a game that began with high hopes to see New York win its 104th game of the season, only to see it all fall apart in the 6th inning. It reminded me of growing up a Tribe fan when my dad and I would watch Cleveland start well, only to lose it all in the final innings.

I know, I know! Cleveland isn’t New York. But the game tonight reminded of those times watching my dad’s team battle on, only to have hope deferred. But then I am reminded that the Yankees have already secured their playoff spot as the 2019 AL East champs, and all that hope returns!

Luis Severino started for New York to face the Texas Rangers and threw 72 pitches over 3 innings. In the 1st, Severino gave up a walk to the lead-off batter followed by a strike out swinging. After another walk, Severino gave up a double that allowed both runners to score. After a mound visit and yet another walk, the 2 runners made a double steal, but an infield ground out ended the inning.

Severino found his normal momentum in the 2nd, quickly shutting down 3 batters with 3 solid strikeouts. But in the 3rd, Severino allowed his 4th walk before 3 outs to close out the inning and keep it a close game.

David Hale took the mound in the 4th, giving up a double and a walk. Another double scored both runners, so after a strike out, Hale was replaced by Tyler Lyons who eventually ended the inning with no further allowed runs. Luis Cessa took the helm in the 5th. Despite some allowed base runners, some solid defense got him out of the inning scoreless.

And then came that aforementioned 6th inning — where everything fell apart for the Yankees. Cessa returned to the mound and gave up consecutive singles and a a walk that loaded the bases. He then gave up another walk that scored a run and kept the bases loaded. After a mound visit, Cessa finally got a nice strikeout.

With just that one out and the bases still loaded, Nestor Cortes Jr. replaced Cessa and promptly gave up a grand slam, solidly placing the home team in the lead. Another 3 singles and 1 run later, this 6-run inning mercifully ended. Heller took over for Cortes in the 7th and successfully retired the side. Something Gearrin followed up in the 8th to shut down the Rangers’ big night.

The Yankee lineup started well in the 1st inning when Aaron Judge sent a triple deep to center. A sacrifice fly by Brett Gardner allowed Judge to score and put the Yankees on the scoreboard first. There was a few other chances for the Yankees when they actually got base runners, but they really failed to put runners in scoring position until the 9th inning.

Down by 8 runs, there was a glimmer of hope as Frazier worked a walked and moved to 3rd on Wade’s single. Voit’s hit-by-pitch loaded the bases, Didi Gregorius sent a 3-run RBI double to right field to clear the bases. Yankee hopes were running high despite 2 outs, but chances to score more runs ran out when a fly ball to right field was caught for the final out of the game.

Final score: 9-4 Rangers

This day in Yankee history: On September 28, 1923, in a game facing the the rival Boston Red Sox, and with legends like Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig on the team, the New York Yankees tallied up 30 hits that included just 2 home runs (one by Ruth) and 8 doubles to earn a single-game franchise record that is still unbroken almost a century later. And most of their runs that day came in (you guessed it) the 6th inning. The final score on that day 96 years ago — 24-4, Yankees!

Go Yankees!

 

Spring Games 15 & 16: NYY vs. DET & PIT vs. NYY — A draw and a win on a sunny Sunday

Another split squad series, another sunny and hot afternoon, another set of mixed results. At least today’s results leaned positive for the Yankees.

Game 1: Yankees at Detroit
Some of the Yankees traveled about 40 minutes east to visit the Tigers again in Lakeland and honestly battled their way through the afternoon in an oddly evenly-matched game. Nestor Cortes got the started and pitched his way into the 3rd inning, only giving up a lead-off solo home run in the 2nd.

Then the Yankees and Tigers kept the game close for most of the game, thanks to the great defense and pitching on both sides. The Yankees didn’t find their breakthrough until the 7th. Voit led-off with a walk and was pinch-run by Brandon Wagner. Miguel Andujar then hit a big double, and Wagner made an effort to score the Yankees’ first run. But a great relay got him out at home, with Andujar making it to 3rd on the throw. He was then pinch-run by Cabrera, who finally scored a Yankees’ run on Ryan Lavarnway’s single.

Another out later, the Yankees loaded up the bases with 2 walks. But a pitching change and a pop-up ended their attempt to break the tie. But Brandon Wagner broke it in the 8th with a 2-out solo home run, and the Yankees had their lead for the first time all afternoon in Lakeland.

It didn’t last long. In the bottom of the 8th, Danny Farquhar came out for the Yankees to try to protect the lead. A lead-off single was quickly caught stealing 2nd for his first out, and after another out, he loaded up the bases with 3 consecutive walks. David Hale came on in relief and promptly walked in the tying and final run.

Final score: 2-2 tie

Game 2: Pirates at Yankees
Meanwhile, back home in Tampa, the Yankees battled the visiting Pirates for the afternoon. JA Happ got the start at Steinbrenner Field, pitching 4 innings and struggling a bit in the middle. In the 2nd, with 1 out and runners on the corners with singles, a sacrifice fly scored the Pirates’ first run. And back-to-back solo home runs in the 3rd gave the Pirates a solid lead.

The Yankees finally found their offense in the 4th. They loaded up the bases with walks to 3 power-hitters — Judge, Stanton, and Bird. Gleyber Torres was then walked to scored Judge for the Yankees’ first run of the day in Tampa. With a new pitcher, Troy Tulowitzki ground into a double play, but it still scored Stanton and moved Bird to 3rd. Clint Frazier’s single then scored Bird to tie up the game in a single inning. Then in the 5th, Gio Urshela led-off with a solo home run to put the Yankees in the lead.

Adam Ottavino’s 5th inning was just filthy stuff, catching the eye of both fellow Yankees and their opponents. It was very much a “blink and you miss it” kind of inning, with the new Yankees just getting 3 straight strikeouts. Chapman followed that up with a solid 6th inning of his own, and things were looking up for the Yankees as they tried to gain some further momentum.

But Dellin Betances had a bit of a struggle in his 7th inning. He gave up a lead-off triple, due in part to some sun-influenced defensive issues. A single then scored that runner to tie the game up again. After a solid strikeout, he walked 2 batters to load up the batters. Jonathan Holder came in to try to save the inning, giving up a sacrifice fly that put the Pirates back on top.

In the bottom of the 8th, the Yankees weren’t going to let this game go just yet. Jackson led-off with a single and then scored on Zack Zehner’s monster 2-run home run over the left field concourse to get the lead back to the home team. Tommy Kahnle’s final 4 outs closed out the game and protected the Yankees’ lead.

Final score: 6-5 Yankees

One to watch: I’m going to give today’s honor to Gio Urshela, who’s really been rising in recognition this Spring. And today, in addition to being the Yankees’ starting 3rd baseman, he also hit that great home run in the 5th to put the Yankees in their first lead of the afternoon. He was traded to the Yankees late last year after stints with the Indians and Blue Jays, playing in the big leagues with both previous teams. He’s not really been on anyone’s radar, but he could potentially be some great back-up for the infield should problems arise this season.

Next up: after an off-day tomorrow (Monday), the Yankees will take on the Orioles at home Tuesday night. There’s 15 scheduled games left, just a little more than halfway through the Spring, or about 2 weeks.

In Yankee Universe news: Babe Ruth’s last living daughter, Julia Ruth Stevens, died Saturday at the age of 102. Ruth adopted Julia when he married her mother in 1929, but she remained an avid fan of Ruth’s original team, the Red Sox, being a frequent fan in the stands up until a few years ago. Our thoughts and condolences are with her son, two grandchildren, and four great grandchildren at this time.

Go Yankees!

{Media note: Neither game today was broadcast, so there was minimal video highlights to share. Apologies, fans!}

Game 87: NYY vs. CLE — Yankee perseverance pays off

As Yankee legend Babe Ruth once said, “It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up.” Very fitting words for tonight’s game between the Yankees and the Indians before a crowd of 32,951 on the shores of Lake Erie. Like two thoroughbreds in a match race, the Bombers and the Tribe tenaciously refused to give up, running neck-and-neck though 11 innings until one team finally found an extra gear and won in the final stretch.

Back in the land he started his professional career, CC Sabathia started for the Yankees, pitching 5 2/3 innings, giving up 7 hits and 5 runs. In the 1st, a lead-off hit-by-pitch moved to 2nd on a sacrifice bunt and then stole 3rd. He scored on an RBI single later in the inning to get the Indians on the board first. In the bottom of the 3rd, with 1 out and runners on the corners, 3 consecutive hits scored 3 more runs for Cleveland. A great play stopped the fourth run right at home.

In both the 5th and the 7th (because the Indians only scored in odd numbered innings this afternoon), a lead-off double moved to 3rd on a ground out and then scored easily on a 2-out RBI single. (Talk about deja vu.)

Enter the Warriors Three for the long haul.  Dellin Betances pitched 1 1/3 innings, allowing 2 hits and 1 run and was followed by Andrew Miller throwing for 1 2/3 inings giving up 2 hits and no runs. A rather odd and kind of scary collision in the ninth had Headley colliding with the runner going to 3rd; the runner was called out for interference, as it’s football and you can’t tackle the defense to make sure your team gets the win. To be fair, it clearly wasn’t intentional, but it was a rather odd event in this particular sport. (Chase Headley also had a bit of a reaction on the collision after the game.) Aroldis Chapman replaced Miller in the bottom of the ninth for 2 1/3 innings allowing no hits and no runs and threw four of his scary strikeouts to end the game with the win for New York.

For over four hours, the Yankees were determined to not give up this game to the AL Central Division leaders. Typical New York perseverance and a refusal to quit were evident in both their offense and defense on the field as they fought for the win. In the third inning, a double by Gardner, an RBI single by Carlos Beltran, and 2-run homer from Didi Gregorius put the Yankees in the lead by 2 runs.

At the top of the sixth, with 2 outs, the Yankees loaded the bases with Headley and Refsnyder’s singles and pinch-hitter Rodriguez’s walk. Romine came in as Rodriguez’s pinch-runner. The Tribe changed pitchers, but Gardner cleared the bases with a beautiful triple to put New York ahead by a run. When Cleveland tied the game in the 7th, the Yankees pushed forward in hopes for a leap again in the offense. Unfortunately, so did Cleveland. So they went into extra innings.

So with the continued tie game through the 10th inning, the Yankees finally regained control of the game in the 11th. With two outs, Beltran singled and was pinch-run by Ronald Torreyes as pinch-runner. It would be Brian McCann to hit a RBI double to right field and score Torreyes to break the tie and the Yankees were ahead by one. At the bottom of the 11th, the Indians finally ran out of steam, and after an eventful tag play to catch a runner stealing 2nd, New York took home the win.

Final score: 7-6, Yankees, in 11 innings.

Injury update: Aaron Judge, the power hitter of Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, who was set to compete in the Triple-A Home Run Derby was placed on the DL with a knee injury. Test results show a sprain and bone bruise. No word on how long he will be on the DL or how this will affect his All-Star Game appearance as a participant in the minor league home run derby this Monday night.

This Day in Yankee History: Five years ago today, former shortstop Derek Jeter became the first Yankee to record 3,000 hits with a home run off of Rays pitcher David Price (now with the Red Sox) in Yankee Stadium. Jeter, of course, ended his career in 2014 with 3,465 hits with only five other players recording more lifetime hits.

Go Yankees!

Game 38: NYM vs. NYY — Subway series down the tubes in Game 2

Three hours and 58 minutes. You’d think it was a Red Sox-Yankees game. No, it was just a poorly pitched Mets-Yankees game, that included an ejection, mound re-landscaping, and a really ridiculous number of walks.

First, the injury update: Shawn Kelley was placed on the 15-day DL with his recurring back issue (Zoilo Almonte was recalled from AAA); Ichiro Suzuki is day-to-day with his back problem; Carlos Beltran is day-to-day with a bone spur on his elbow.

And Babe Ruth’s Cooperstown plaque was on display at the Stadium, in honor of the 100th anniversary of Ruth’s rookie MLB season. It is scheduled to be displayed at Grand Central Station in Midtown as part of a special exhibit. It also serves as a reminder that the Hall of Fame is opening a new gallery as part of the 75th anniversary celebration next month. (No, I still haven’t been there, but it’s on my list. And if you’re truly a baseball fan, it should be on yours as well.)

Oh, and then they played the second game of this “subway series” with the Mets. And it was just messy. Spoiler alert: the Mets won, but really it was just messy pitching on both sides. The Mets were simply able to do more with the Yankees weakened bullpen and rotation. They always say that if you don’t have pitching, you don’t have nothin’ (and yes, I just cringed at the grammar), and it’s certainly true tonight.

So it was Vidal Nuno for the start. And right off the top, it’s not good. The lead-off Mets batter was hit by a pitch, then a walk, and an RBI single before finally an out, followed promptly by a 3-run home run by former Yankee Granderson. (4-0 Mets)

But the Yankees didn’t wait long and answered back in the bottom of the 1st. Gardner singled, Jeter walked, a double play (the first of 3), Mark Teixeira’s RBI single scored Gardner, and then Brian McCann smacked a 2-run home run. (4-3 Mets)

Then the Mets continued to advance their lead. A sacrifice fly in each of the 3rd and 4th scored 2 more runs. And that’s when Nuno’s night was over, after just 3.1 innings and a big 78 pitches (4 hits, 7 runs, 4 walks, and 1 strikeout). So out came Alfredo Aceves, who let a single score yet another Mets run. (7-3 Mets)

So the Yankees attempted their first comeback rally in the bottom of the 4th (and 2 hours into the game already). Two walks and a fly out put runners at the corners, so Yangervis Solarte scored on Gardner’s single. And the second double play on the Yankees ends the inning quickly, squelching any further rally. (7-4 Mets)

And into the 5th… the Mets’ lead-off double scored on an RBI single, and then another walk sets the table for another 3-run home run. And it’s 11-4 Mets. The Yankees response is much weaker in the bottom of the 5th, Ellsbury walked, McCann singled, and Soriano’s single scored Ellsbury before the inning was over. (11-5 Mets)

Aceves threw 52 pitches through just 1.2 innings, but it was really Matt Daley who shone from the bullpen tonight. He pitched the 6th, 7th, and 8th innings rather flawlessly and threw just 44 pitches in those 3 innings. He is proving a great call-up and much needed relief.

In the bottom of the 8th, the Yankees current secret weapon (in the form of Solarte) decided to tack on another Yankee run with a solo home run into the right field seats. But the Mets decided to take it back with an RBI double in the top of the 9th against reliever Preston Claiborne. And in a last-ditch attempt to rally, with 1 out and Jeter and Ellsbury on the corner each with a walk, McCann’s single scored Jeter. Two outs later and the score was sadly 12-7 Mets.

Oh, and Girardi got ejected. Something he doesn’t understand, and honestly, I thought the ejection was a little much. He was questioning a call, and on his way back to the dugout, the umpire ejected him. Gotta love a back-handed gesture.

Here’s why I blame poor pitching: the Yankees earned 10 walks and got their 7 runs off 9 hits, and the Mets got their 12 runs off 10 hits and 6 walks. Both teams left far too many people on base at the end of the innings. And here’s the thing, the scorer didn’t even give the Mets starter the win because the pitching wasn’t great.

Tomorrow, the Yankees head out to Queens for the last 2 games of the Subway Series. I hoping the smell of Shake Shack on the outfield concourse will be enough to lift the Yankees into some much needed wins. Right now, they’re playing for average 19-19. And the Yankees are anything but average. It may be a “long season”, but I don’t have a lot of patience and I really don’t like average. And it’s one of the reasons I like the Yankees.

Go Yankees!

Babe Ruth is 119, and Masahiro Tanaka is on his way to the U.S.

ruth-gehrig
Legends, teammates, and friends
Lou Gehrig & Babe Ruth in 1927
via Google Images

Today is Babe Ruth’s 119th birthday, and this month in his honor, thousands will make the pilgrimage to his grave site in Westchester county, just north of the NYC metro area. I honestly had no idea this was a thing, but apparently, fans do this every year prior to the start of each season. They even have a tour bus that arranges a stop to the grave site so fans can pay homage to what a lot of people consider to be the “Greatest Ball Player Who Ever Lived”. It’s a big tourist attraction and tradition for many baseball fans. About 10 years ago when the Red Sox were looking to “break the curse” so closely associated with Ruth, even Red Sox fans made the pilgrimage to “ask him” to release their team from the curse.

Yes, this is one of those weird things about baseball that non-baseball fans seem to like to focus on to point of why “everyone hates baseball now”. I am going to say here and now that this baseball fan thinks this is beyond weird and abnormal. I am a huge fan of traditions and nostalgia, but this might be taking things a bit too far. Right up there for me with some of the weirder superstitions like players wearing the same socks without washing them for every game or not shaving the entire season in hopes that alone will gift them the Championship.

It pays to have friends in high places, as they say. The NY state department was able to put a rush on Masahiro Tanaka‘s work visa so Tanaka would be able to make it to Spring Training. Tanaka is expected to leave Japan by Sunday, which puts him in Florida in plenty of time for his reporting date next Friday (February 14). And like many of his new teammates, he will escaping the winter (albeit a much more mild one than some of this country’s winter this year) into Florida temperatures.

Tanaka will be joining fellow pitchers and catchers as they begin their own workouts at the Tampa minor league complex. One of the smartest things they do for Spring Training is to call for pitchers and catchers to report early because they require more fluidity and teamwork than all the other players. For at least half the game, the entire flow of the half-inning is dictated by the communication and work of the pitcher and catcher. And with McCann being the new starting catcher and back-up Cervelli coming off the DL and a suspension, they have a mix of old and new pitchers to learn how to work together and build a functional professional relationship. Plus, there’s that magic of developing the bullpen and giving those minor leaguers and non-roster invitees a chance to show off their stuff and give Girardi, Cashman, & Co. someone to remember for the “what if” days.

And so we are at 8 days to pitchers and catchers, 13 to full squad, 14 to first full workout, 19 to first Spring game, and 53 days to Opening Day (and 59 to Opening Day in the Bronx). And if you remember the thing they were doing last year with the countdown, that’s Yogi Berra, Alex Rodriguez, formerly Curtis Granderson (I really doubt anyone will wear this number this year), Austin Romine, and 3rd base coach Rob Thomson, respectively. Of course, I can’t help but think of Yankees every time I get a number, be it at a restaurant or the random lottery ticket. I guess that’s a side effect of being a fan not just of today’s Yankees, but of their history and legacy.

Go Yankees!

You just never know…

I think I’m still on a high from all the action from yesterday’s game. It’s taken me most of the day trying to determine my post for the day, but I keep rehashing all the great things that happened — Matsui, Jeter, Soriano, Rivera, everything. And with all the talk and headlines slammed between the continuing PED scandal and the looming trade deadline (this Wednesday afternoon), there’s not a lot I can add that’s based in fact and positive.

Today, the Yankees spend their free day in LA before their 2-game series with the Dodgers, then a travel day down to San Diego to face the Padres for a 3-game weekend series, then to Chicago for 3 games, before heading back to New York for next weekend. I must say that some years’ schedules seem to flow better than others, and this certainly isn’t one of them.

On an interesting note, yesterday, the Baseball Hall of Fame also inducted the late Jacob Ruppert, former owner of the New York Yankees from 1915 to his death in 1939. The former US Representative from New York purchased the Yankees for what would be equivalent to about $10,000,000 in today’s money (not even enough to pay for one of the “names” on the roster) because at the time, the Yankees were considered, well, awful. Instead of just continuing that path, Ruppert made advances to build the most winningest team in MLB history with his masterful purchases and signings like Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and the famed “Murders’ Row”, plus the man they’d dub (on this day in 1969) as the “Greatest Player Living” Joe DiMaggio.

In addition to team-building, he invested time and energy into a physical building to house his budding champions — the first Yankee Stadium, purchasing and clearing 10 acres of farmland in the south Bronx in 1923. The team under him won 10 AL pennants and 7 World Series championships. Forty-five players, managers, and executives that worked under Ruppert would end up in Cooperstown. And yesterday, Ruppert rightfully joined them.

He set the standard for baseball owners, something I think was later reflected and partially embodied by another Yankees owner — George Steinbrenner. Both men knew how to build a team, seeing something where most people might call them crazy and waiting patiently for years for their hard work to come to fruition. And let’s be honest, both were quite different characters for their time, and they both knew how to play the “executive game” of baseball seemingly better than their peers.

I only make the comparison so that people who weren’t alive when Ruppert was the owner (which I’m guessing is most of the people who will stumble across this blog) would be able to relate and understand why Ruppert deserves the accolades and why it took so long for him to be inducted in Cooperstown. I think sometimes we don’t always get the true significance of someone until we are further removed from their impact and can really see all the ripples in the pond from their tiny (or in this case gigantic) pebble. We see this in many areas of life — politics, family, careers, education, and sports. They always say “hind sight is 20/20”, and I’m a firm believer. Sometimes that separation allows us to see how all the pieces fell into place.

Sometimes, when I watch the games, I try to pinpoint what each of the players will do after they retire — broadcasting, managing, coaching, owning, business, a whole lot of nothing. And I like to see if I can pinpoint which players might be inducted into Cooperstown, joining Ruppert one day. But the fun thing about this game is that you just never know. I kind of had an idea that David Cone might make a good broadcaster (and he’s still one of my favorite ones), but I never saw Paul O’Neill coming. And I thought Joe Girardi might make a good coach, maybe like a bullpen coach, but I never imagined him as Joe Torre’s successor and really more than capable of that role.

Maybe that’s why our individual, every day choices really matter. They affect our future, whether we see it or not right now. And isn’t that really cool (or perhaps daunting at times) when you think about it. We can impact not only our future but all of the futures of those in our lives, even those we may never know or not know yet, just because of our decisions today. That thought certainly makes me set a higher level of value on my decisions. I mean, who knows? You never know when that one decision may be the ultimate turning point in the journey — the purchase of Ruth, the signing of recent high school graduates like Mantle or Jeter, the Rodriguez-Soriano trade, or the pick up of Japanese veterans like Matsui or Kuroda or Suzuki. You never know when you’re watching a Cooperstown-bound rookie or a future hitting coach or perhaps the father of a future legend.

You just never know…

Go Yankees!

Spring Game 10: NYY vs. BOS — The Rivalry Continues…

Today’s starting pitcher Adam Warren had an excellent outing to limit Boston to a single solo shot in the 2nd inning. The Yankee prospects capitalized on a very messy 6th inning (for Boston), scoring 3 runs off a single, a double, 2 walks, a forced out, and 2 fielding errors. Final score was 5-2 New York. Another solid win, and another year’s start to the old rivalry.

So it got me thinking about rivalries again. We’re now at 94 years since the official start of the rivalry between Boston and New York. Before the infamous Babe Ruth trade in 1919, the Red Sox were World Series champions five times (from 1903, the founding of the Yankees, to 1918) and the Yankees had never been close. In other words (for the Yankees fans), the Sox were the Yankees in the early years of the 20th century. And then the Yankees won their first (of 40 so far) AL pennant in 1921 and their first (of 27) World Series in 1923. The Yankees went from being the team to easily beat to the hardest team to beat in just a few short years.

It took the Sox 86 years to win their next Series (1918 to 2004), and for a while in the 1990’s and 2000’s, the rivalry was well and alive for the Yankees-Red Sox fans to jeer and cheer at the games. You see, rivalries only work well if both teams stand a chance of winning that particular game. It’s easy to just “hate” a team because they’re good, and as long-term Yankee fans, we already know what that looks like. And for that, the venom and nastiness that happens by the opposing fan base is anything less than sportsman-like or good competitive action (the 2012 All-Star game comes to mind).

No, for a rivalry to have legs and stamina and validity, you need two teams that can compete against each other on a level playing field. I know I’ve said it before, but I truly love the games that are the “white-knuckle” games — the ones that keep you on the edge of your seat, anxiously awaiting the next hit or home run or budding MVP. We love the walk-off home runs, the final tough strike-out, the hard to catch fly ball at the fence, the last-minute twist to win (or possibly lose) it all. Those stories make up the legends, the tape we play back to laud with praise and approval. It’s not the double-digit shut-out games that we remember; those are often wince-inducing, even for the victors because it’s a hollow victory.

Baseball is meant to be a competitive game, and competition only exists if you have something to challenge you, to motivate you to do your best and excel to heights you never thought possible before. True rivalries are exciting, build a great fan base, and are meant to stay on the playing field. As a Yankees fan, I am thus obligated to dislike the Red Sox, but I love the historic city and I love my family who live there. Except during a game. And only during a game.

On a final note: After yesterday’s game, an errant driver claimed the life of the Land Rover driven by Ichiro Suzuki in a 3-car accident just south of Steinbrenner Field. Air bags worked, no injuries, one at-fault driver (not Ichiro), and a near-totaled SUV to end a Saturday afternoon. Ichiro will see a doctor as a precaution, but he is reporting no soreness or stiffness. We’re certainly glad he’s okay. I think it’s time to stay out of the crazy traffic that is Tampa, specifically that intersection is known for, let’s call it more “aggressive drivers”. Stay safe, Ichiro! We need you!

Go Yankees!

Once a Yankee, always a Yankee

Full squad reporting for duty today. The first official warm-up starts tomorrow with all 83 men, roster players and invitees. Team Captain Derek Jeter did his first official press conference for the season, talking a good portion of the time about his recovery and expected return (Opening Day is just around the corner!). At the end of the it, Jeter was asked about Kevin Youkilis’ recent comments about whether Youk still considers himself a Red Sock, which he has since clarified and explained that he is glad to be donning the pinstripes this year and looks forward to beating them on April 1st in the Bronx. Jeter’s response, with an amused smirk, was simply, “Welcome to New York.”

This got me thinking about that old saying (something Youkilis actually referred to in his clarification interview): “once a Yankee, always a Yankee.” I know you cannot erase your history; in fact, you should embrace it as it helped make you into the person you are today (for better or worse). In that case, once a player’s been a Yankee, it’s not something they can deny any more than they can their other teams or heritage or family life or whatever. It’s part of your make-up, your identity, and you can either accept it or deny a part of who you are.

For example, there were a few years where Andy Pettitte played for another team, closer to his hometown, or even a brief retirement in 2011. But when he came back to New York, it wasn’t a denial or shameful betrayal, but rather a point of fact. Once a Yankee, always a Yankee. No one really even pictured Pettitte as anything but a Yankee who was temporarily reassigned to Houston or his home.

Even Babe Ruth played for another team his final year of baseball (Boston Braves in 1935), but he is enshrined at Cooperstown as a Yankee, even though his career with the Red Sox for the first 5 years were stellar. (Side note: many people thought he would never amount to anything in New York and wrote him off as a lost cause, thinking Boston was the only place where he could be a superstar.)

DiMaggio Sign
The sign, autographed by Yankees players from
the 1977 World Series Championship team
via Yankees.com

There is a well-known sign to remind the players as they approach the dugout from the locker room is Joe DiMaggio’s famous 1941 quote: “I thank the good Lord every day for making me a Yankee.” And what a reminder!

I think DiMaggio’s saying serves to remind the players that being a Yankee is a privilege, not an obligation. You can play on any of the other 29 professional teams and still be a million dollar athletic celebrity. But only a select few can call themselves “Yankees”. Much like anything in the world, the moment something becomes an obligation is the moment we lose passion and open the doors to burn out or sell out. This obligation to fulfill a contract or push for a certain statistic robs players of the joy and the privilege of being first a ball player and second proud to wear their team’s colors (especially the pinstripes).

There is an award the Yankees give out every year just before their season opener to a former Yankee who emulates everything it means to be with the team both on and off the field. They call it the “Pride of the Yankees”, after the Lou Gehrig-inspired 1942 film (former Yankees catcher Jorge Posada won the 2012 award). Giving this award prior to the season is a reminder for all current players as to what a privilege it is to wear the pinstripes and the level of leadership and responsibility that is required of the men who do, whether it be for one season or twenty with the club.

And I, for one, am proud to be a Yankees fan.

Go Yankees!

Positivity is hard to find

As I predicted yesterday, the Yankees referred to Babe Ruth today (via his retired plaque and number at Tampa’s Monument Park). With the winter storm hitting the Northeast this weekend, I’m sure many of the teams are glad to be in warmer, sunnier climates for this February.

I was reading up on baseball news yesterday and this morning, and so much of it isn’t worth talking about as much as it gets talked about. I started this blog with the full intent remaining positive and sharing with whomever may stumble across it why it’s the greatest sport in the world and why the Yankees are the great team of all time. But so much of the news, especially concerning the 2013 Yankees is so negative — their aging lineup and bullpen, possible PED usage once again, nasty contract and trade rumors, bad managing (or is it the front office?)… the list just goes on.

I skimmed through four baseball magazines in the store last night. These weren’t your ordinary general sports pages, but the ones specifically created just to cover baseball. According to their predictions, the 2013 Yankees will wind up either 1st in the AL East (but lose to Detroit in the playoffs), 2nd in the AL East and miss the Wild Card slot, or last in the AL East. And every one of the magazines had some snarky article about the “aging” of the Yankees and even some not nice things to say about the guys on the prospect list. I had to walk away from the newsstand and quickly; it was making me angry.

Look, I get fairness in journalism (it was my first major in college). But this was coming off as just more anti-Yankee hatred once again. Perhaps, Bostonians and other lesser rivals would be proud of these “journalists”. I guess I’m just tired of the bias against one team becoming a hatred of the team, its players, its coaches, its fans, and its city. Even the players don’t really get into this rivalry because they realize at the end of the day, it’s still a business, and they as commodities can be traded to a “rival” team if the price is right.

BOSvNYY
Baseball’s most famous rivals

Babe Ruth’s trade may have started the Boston-New York rivalry, but long-term fans of both teams remember Wade Boggs, Roger Clemens, Johnny Damon, Rickey Henderson, Bob Melvin, Bill Wight, and (current Yankee pitcher) David Aardsma are just a handful of players who have played for both teams at some point in their careers.

I think of the movie Fever Pitch often when I think of this rivalry. There is a scene towards the end of the movie when Jimmy Fallon’s character has chosen the Red Sox over his girlfriend (played by Drew Barrymore), the Red Sox have lost horribly once again, and Jimmy and his friends are commiserating at a nearby bar over the Sox loss. They look over and see three Sox players having dinner and just hanging out like friends. At first, Jimmy’s friends are offended that the ball players aren’t as miserable as the fans are about their loss, but that’s when it hits Jimmy. The players know it’s just one game out of 162. They still have to get up the next morning and play another game against another team, and life moves on because it has to. Rivalry for the fans or not, they have a job to do, whether they play the Yankees or the Royals or the Astros.

I suppose I will offend some Yankee fans for my Fever Pitch reference, but what I like about the movie is what I like about baseball. It’s about baseball, it’s about love, and it’s about loyalty. And the fact they actually won the Series that year, breaking the “Curse” (something the filmmakers had no clue would happen while they were filming) was a fun piece of trivia to which any baseball fan can relate. We all want good things to happen for our team, even if it happens out of the blue.

So let’s remember today the things we like about baseball. It isn’t (or rather shouldn’t be) the hate of another team — they could end up on your team next year! It isn’t the money or the fame. It’s the spirit of the game that supersedes all that superficial nonsense. It’s looking out at the field and instead of seeing 9 men, seeing the 9 little boys that once played tee-ball and couldn’t find a baseball on the field for anything. It’s looking at 9 boys who slept with their gloves under their pillows and prayed every night that God would let them play the big leagues just once. And it’s the fans who love introducing the sport they played to their sons who might just one day grow up to don pinstripes and pitch that perfect game or hit that walk-off home run.

Go Yankees!

Babe Ruth & Legacies

Babe Ruth

.342 lifetime average, .690 career slugging, 1.164 career OPS, 714 home runs, 2873 hits, 2213 RBIs, 2x All-Star, 7 World Series championships (3 with the Red Sox, oddly enough), led AL in home runs 12 times, MLB’s All-Century and All-Time Teams, inducted into Cooperstown in 1936 with 95% of the votes…

There is so much to be said for George Herman Ruth Jr., affectionately referred to as “Babe”. Every time I look out across center field toward Monument Park, or even upon exiting the Great Hall meandering along Babe Ruth Plaza just outside the main gates of the Stadium, I find myself a bit sentimental about a man who is always on the Top 10 list of baseball greats. Of course, he’s favored with the Yankees and the cause of the Red Sox/Yankees rivalry, and I know he wasn’t the kind of person one might want to influence your children with his questionable moral character. Perhaps he was fortunate to be born in the days without Twitter and 24/7 news channels and paparazzi, or we might have a less-than-sentimental remembrance of his legacy.

I think for a moment that just maybe those were simpler times for the game. But I am quickly reminded that, much like today, people were willing to compromise and cheat all for a title or award or a legacy they prayed would never be tainted if they ever got caught. And yet, so many of them did. The obvious one from that era is of course the 1919 World Series and the infamous “Black Sox Scandal“.

We like to remember our heroes past with a squeaky clean immortality, but we forget that they, like us, are still flawed humans. But like someone once said, it’s not if you fall, it’s how you get up. We as a society love genuine redemption stories — fallen heroes who face their failures and rise to overcome them — Gladiator, The Shawshank Redemption, The Lord of the Rings, Spider-Man (2002), It’s a Wonderful Life, Groundhog Day, Pirates of the Caribbean (2003), and Finding Nemo, to name a few. We honor these flawed characters as heroes, not because they failed, but because they didn’t let their mistakes become who they were. Instead, they became the people (or fish or hobbits) that they should have been all along and probably dreamed about being as a kid. Rising above regret, shame, and guilt, our heroes created a niche in our hearts because of who they became by the end of the movie, not because of where they started out.

So then in honor of Babe Ruth’s 118th birthday, and in light of recent stories of a shadier nature, I ask that today we remember the good men of the sport, whose legacies we will celebrate with our children, whether redeemed part way through or clean throughout. It’s not about how you start or how many times you mess up on the way, it’s about how you finish. So finish strong…

Go Yankees!