Quick Yankees update… B-Rob, K-Long, #28 hopes

Okay, in the interim between the non-Yankees Championship Series and the non-Yankees World Series, there is not much in the way of current news. When there’s not a game, I toy with the idea of blogging something for my loyal readers (and for the random person who stumbles across my blog), but unless I want to put some effort into research or have planned ahead for a non-game series of posts (which are coming following the World Series, I promise), then it’s usually an off-day for this blogger.

However, when I start collecting information on the team, I have to debate what’s worth sharing and what isn’t worth my 15 seconds to read in the first place, let alone passing the information along. But after a couple of stories collect that I do want to share, it becomes necessary to work on a Saturday night (apparently). Consider tonight’s post just for you as it seems I couldn’t help myself tonight.

If you were wondering what happened to Brian Roberts after he was let go by the Yankees in August as they needed to make room for some of their late-season additions, there is an update. Roberts spent 13 of his 14 MLB seasons with the Orioles before joining the Yankees this year, being signed off free agency this Spring. After much deliberation, the 37-year-old infielder decided to hang up his cleats for good. Best of luck to him in his post-career ventures, including I’m sure spending much-needed time with his young family!

And in coaching news, while recently released hitting coach Kevin Long is already being pursued by a multitude of teams, the Yankees are beginning their search for a new voice for their offense. Several names have been tossed around, but no deals or news in that front just yet. But they still have time — somewhere in the neighborhood of 4-ish months before Spring Training begins.

If someone were to tell me what the 2014 Yankees would look like (and who would be on the team) last October, I don’t know if I would really take them seriously. But as all the pieces fell together just as February rolled around, it was shaping into what became the team that wouldn’t give up, and the team that no one believed in. I admire tenacity in this form, the belief so deep in each other and in oneself that nothing could deter you from striving for the goal regardless. Yes, it’s disappointing to fall short, but that perseverance and passion is a core trait of the Yankees. It’s what made them winners in the past and it’s what will carry them onto their next title be it in 2015 or whenever. But please let it be 2015.

Go Yankees!

Game 116: CLE vs. NYY — The Warrior and the Number Six

I realize the title of today’s blog post must sound like a very weird day on Sesame Street, but when I was thinking through the day’s events, this is the one that stuck. And made me smile because it sounded like a bad episode of a long-time New York-based children’s TV program.

Today’s festivities began when the Yankees honored former pinstriped outfielder and current YES Network broadcaster Paul O’Neill with a plaque in Monument Park. A whole slew of former teammates like Posada, Rivera, Martinez, Cone, and Jeter and former manager Joe Torre and trainer Gene Monahan showed up to help honor O’Neill. O’Neill was dubbed “The Warrior” by George Steinbrenner himself because of O’Neill’s drive and passion for the game. O’Neill is such a fan favorite that even though his #21 hasn’t been retired, no players is technically allowed to wear it for fear of facing the wrath of fans like one newer player did a few year ago. (He ended up selecting another number after the fan-hate got a little much. Hey, don’t mess with your fan base!)

And it’s only fitting that honoring an Ohio-native meant the Yankees must play the Ohio team, though O’Neill actually played for the other Ohio team prior to his 9 years with the Yankees. It’s just unfortunate for the Yankees that the visitors from Cleveland seemed to pick today to play like the team my uncle keeps telling me they are. (For the record, I don’t believe him, and the Indians’ stats this year certainly don’t support his opinion, but again, you can’t shake a fan of their loyalty over a little thing like facts.)

Anyway, it was Brandon McCarthy’s turn to start today, and apparently earn his first loss as a Yankee. Over his 6.1 innings, he threw 90 pitches, allowed 7 hits and 2 runs, and struck out 8 Cleveland batters. Those runs came early in the game, in the 2nd inning with a 2-out 2-run home run to give the Indians an early lead.

Now, the Indians today had one thing in their favor today — their pitcher who threw a really great game, including striking out 10 Yankee batters in just 6 innings. His pitch count was a little high (109 pitches), but that’s only because the Yankees don’t like giving up anything easily. Even a shut-out game.

Oh yeah, the Yankees got shut out of today’s game. Hill and Whitley split the last 2 outs of the 7th inning in relief of McCarthy, and Whitley threw the rest of the game, giving up a lead-off home run in the 8th inning to push the Indians to a 3-0 score. The Yankees just weren’t hitting much today, only racking up 5 total hits and getting 15 total strikeouts.

Of course, the most talked about hit was Derek Jeter’s lone hit of the day — a 6th inning single. Now, why was this significant? Because Derek Jeter now holds the #6 spot on the All-Time Hits Leaders’ board by himself at 3,431 hits. And he can now add to it (up to 84 more hits where he would tie for #5, an unlikely feat with just 46 games left to play) and keep that amazing spot for a good while. At least until some young, aspiring ball player (probably not even born yet) decides to be the next great hits leader — hopefully in pinstripes like the great Derek Jeter.

Two players were also hit by some nasty balls today — pitcher Brandon McCarthy took a line drive off his foot in the 3rd, and then in his at-bat, Francisco Cervelli took a pitch right off the side of his abdomen (warning: it looks more painful than it sounds). Both stayed in the game, but I imagine both will be pretty bruised up later tonight and into tomorrow.

Also, Brian McCann was placed on the 7-day DL, and Austin Romine was recalled from AAA Scranton to fill in as back-up catcher while McCann recovers from his concussion.

And Mark Teixeira is still nursing his stitched-up hand, finding that things like gripping a bat is excruciatingly painful when the skin on your hand has been sliced through by metal cleats. (Sorry for the graphic image, visual people, but sometimes we need to remember that these guys are just as fragile and need time to recover from things like painful injuries too. Okay, so maybe it’s the players that need the reminder more than anyone because they tend to be anxious to jump back into the fray without waiting for total healing.)

Other roster moves: Brian Roberts has been unconditionally released, and Scott Sizemore has been re-signed to a Yankees minor league contract. So bad news for you Roberts fans, but some good news for you Sizemore fans (oddly often the same people).

And one more tidbit: There was a really nice article posted today in the Wall Street Journal, by Yankees’ beat reporter Daniel Barbarisi on Brett Gardner and his father Jerry. This is one of those “insider” stories that proves to be quite inspirational. It’s worth the read, and it explains the inherited determination and passion that Gardner displays as well as his good-natured character. And it’s one of the reasons I’m glad he’s going to be a Yankee for a long time.

Go Yankees!

Game 108: NYY vs. BOS — The trades, the rivalry, and the Monster

First up: yesterday’s massive trade fiasco…

Okay, I toyed with the idea of writing a separate blog post yesterday just on the trades made, but I felt like my opinions were too hot to make a calm, objective post. Those I actually talked to yesterday certainly got an earful. And I wasn’t just specifically talking about Yankee moves. I think we can officially dub yesterday as the “Game Changer” for far too many games. A few teams certainly ended up winning yesterday, some even guaranteeing themselves a playing spot in October, and some teams pulled some rather confusing moves that either pulled them out of postseason contention or were just rather head-scratching.

The Yankees really didn’t make an Ichiro-sized splash as they did a couple of years ago; no, that was left for a couple of other teams to cannonball into the media circus pool. Instead, they upgraded their infield and added a solid reliever. In the first trade with the rival Red Sox (and tonight’s opponents) since 1997, the Yankees sent infielder Kelly Johnson to Boston in exchange for shortstop (and starting 2nd baseman tonight) Stephen Drew. And with the Diamondbacks, the Yankees acquired infielder Martin Prado for minor league prospect Pete O’Brien and either cash considerations or a player to be named later. Drew will be a free agent following this season, while the Yankees picked up Prado’s contract through 2016. The Yankees also picked up pitcher Esmil Rogers off waivers after he was released from the Blue Jays, adding a new arm to their inconsistent bullpen.

Now, with those three additions, certain players had to be moved around. Scott Sizemore was released from his AAA contract in conjunction with Prado’s addition; Brian Roberts was designated for assignment due to the recent additions of infielders Headley, Drew, and Prado; and as mentioned above, Johnson was traded to Boston. And to make room in the current clubhouse, Zelous Wheeler and Zoilo Almonte were optioned back to AAA.

After all the roster movements and deals and trades, I cannot imagine the amount of work done to maneuver all that, like fitting pieces of a 10,000 piece puzzle into place in 24 hours. The goal for all 30 teams is simple: build a better, stronger team. Some are focused on just getting to October, some on rebuilding for future seasons, and some on just plugging holes in the leaky dam. I love puzzles, but I’m glad I’m not a GM after yesterday.

And the Yankees were in Boston tonight. On a personal note, it’s the first game they’ve played there since I was privileged enough to take a Fenway Park tour back in June, so watching the game was rather fun and special, pulling memories and moments from that day to the forefront of my mind. And so much of me wished I was sitting in the ugly, uncomfortable seats in the Green Monster, cheering on my Yankees in the midst of a sea of red-shirted Bostonians. I grew a new appreciation for the rivalry after that tour, and I almost crave the competition and zeal that both teams and their fans seem to spark in both cities and both parks on such weekends as this one.

It was recent July acquisition Chris Capuano to take the mound for the Yankees tonight. Actually, overall, Capuano did a pretty good job for his first Fenway start. The pressure of the rivalry often can take its toll on newer pitchers to the competition, even if they are veterans. But 98 pitches over 6.1 inning, 8 hits, 4 runs, and 5 strikeouts, keeping some of the bigger Boston bats silent was a decent outing tonight, as it was a bit of a back-and-forth offensive game. In the 3rd, with 1 out, one batter tripled, the next hit a ground-rule double to score the runner, and the next singled home the runner from 2nd. They added another run in the 4th with an RBI single.

In the mean time, the Yankees added their own offense as Carlos Beltran hit a solo home run into the Red Sox bullpen in the 4th, and Beltran’s single in the 6th scored Ellsbury.

In the 7th, with Capuano still going strong, he allowed a runner to single and then advance to 2nd on a sacrifice bunt, thus on the hook for that runner. Shawn Kelley came in to relieve Capuano, but a quick single scored that runner for Boston. Thornton would close out the inning for the Yankees with a 1-pitch double play.

Down 4-2, the Yankees are back up to bat in the 8th inning with a big chance to catch up as the heart of their batting order is due up. Derek Jeter steps up to the plate, likes the first pitch he sees, a 93 mph fastball, and smacks it to the top of the Green Monster over left field. It may be the only time everyone in Fenway was cheering for a Yankee home run.

Actually, Jeter got a standing ovation for every at-bat he had tonight from the entirety of the Boston crowd. Sure, there’s always a contingent of Yankee fans at Boston games, but they weren’t cheering the loudest for Jeter tonight. I could always tell when Jeter was walking up to bat and when he did something good on the field because the crowd would cheer as if he were Pedroia or Ortiz or one of the Boston stars. It was surprising and amusing and amazing all at the same time.

Adam Warren pitched 12 pitches in the 8th inning, keeping the Red Sox from adding to their 4-3 lead. But lack of offense in the 9th ended up handing the Red Sox the win tonight.

The Yankees have two more games at Fenway this weekend. Then Boston will come back to the Bronx at the beginning of next month, and the Yankees will be back in Boston to close out the regular season at the end of September. There’s nothing like a Yankees-Red Sox game, so if you can, there’s still 8 more chances to catch one this season.

Go Yankees!

Game 102: TOR vs. NYY — Keeping the streak alive in home run country

Apparently, the Yankees have somewhat of a winning streak at home against the Blue Jays, 17 games to be exact, dating back to 2012. It’s the kind of streak that I’m very much interested in watching grow and increase.

Tonight was the first of a 3-game weekend series against Toronto at Yankee Stadium, and so far since the All-Star Break, the Yankees are on a bit of a hot streak of their own, winning 8 of their last 9 games, including tonight’s game. (Spoiler alert: the Yankees won tonight!)

And to start was Hiroki Kuroda, the last remaining starter on the rotation. Kuroda threw 94 pitches over 5.2 innings, allowed 8 hits and 4 runs, striking out 3 batters. The biggest hit to his stats came right in the 1st inning — with 2 runners on base and just 1 out, a batter hit a solid 3-run home run to put the Jays on the board quickly 3-0. The same batter hit a 2-out solo home run in the 3rd inning to give the Blue Jays their 4 total runs.

In the meantime, the Yankees racked up their own runs, including two home runs of their own. First, in the 2nd, bases loaded with no outs, Brian Roberts singled home a runner, and Brett Gardner’s sacrifice fly hit in another. Then in the 3rd, Carlos Beltran hits a solo home run into the left field seats. And then with 2 runners on base, Ichiro Suzuki hits a 3-run home run (and his first home run of the season). Suddenly, the Yankees are up 6-4 in just the 3rd inning.

So it was up to both teams’ bullpens to keep the other team at that score, something both did fairly well. For the Yankees, it was Huff in relief of Kuroda to close the 6th and 2 outs in the 7th, before Kelley got the last out of the 7th. Betances and Robertson pulled off their regular magic act once again in the 8th and 9th innings, respectively. (Favorite play of the night: Betances-McCann jump grab tandem out at 1st base in the 8th inning.) And it was the Yankees game to win and keep that Blue Jays’ losing streak alive in the Bronx.

Before the game, Brett Gardner was awarded the 2014 Yankees’ Heart & Hustle Award, an award given to a player on each team with a passion for baseball and the best representative of “the values, spirit, and tradition of the game”. The award is voted on by former players and awarded annually since 2005. This is Gardner’s third year receiving the award; he also won in 2010 and 2013. (Other Yankee winners include Derek Jeter in 2006 and 2008 and Mariano Rivera in 2007.)  One overall winner is then selected by the alumni at the end of the year. Personally, I think Gardner is the perfect choice once again for this year’s award.

Gardner, as if he needed to further prove he deserved the award, spent today visiting with about 200 young campers from the Yankees special baseball camp. Every summer, the Yankees offer the opportunity to local Little Leaguers (ages 5-13) to participate in a week-long baseball camp session around the New York area. During the session, they practice baseball skills and work on their game, all in Yankee pinstripes. Every session ends with a tour of the Stadium and a chance to meet a current Yankee player. And today, it was Brett Gardner to answer questions and hang out with the kids, posing for pictures and signing autographs.

It’s always nice to see the Yankees doing what they do best, led today by someone like Brett Gardner — give back to the community and then go win a game. It was a pretty good Friday in the Bronx.

Go Yankees!

Game 99: TEX vs. NYY — Heads-up in the 14th inning

I had a sneaking suspicion that there might be some shake-ups after yesterday’s game, but I really didn’t expect the trade they made this afternoon. Pitching prospect Rafael De Paula and Yangervis Solarte were traded to the San Diego Padres organization in exchange for cash considerations and 3rd baseman Chase Headley. Sorry, Solarte fans, but I can see why this trade made a lot of business sense. And it’s already paid off.

This afternoon, Solarte and Headley did a bit of a switcheroo, where Solarte hopped a plane to Chicago where the Padres were playing tonight (they lost to the Cubs) and Headley hopped a plane from Chicago to New York. Headley came straight to the clubhouse from the airport where a uniform with the number 12 waited in his new locker. He put on the pinstripes for the first time and promptly went outside to greet those waiting in the dugout, shaking hands with every coach, player, trainer, and security person as the game continued on just a few feet away. That’s right, Headley wasn’t even in the Bronx when the game began, but he was certainly there for the end of the game, which came just before midnight in tonight’s 4 hour and 51 minute game against the Rangers.

Yes, this almost 5 hour game isn’t because of any delay, but rather what can only be described as the best efforts by both the Rangers and the Yankees to go through as many innings as possible before scoring a single run. I wouldn’t exactly call either side’s pitching the best, as I’d place the blame on the lack of power at the plate.

Another Chase — Chase Whitley — got the start for tonight’s game. Whitley threw 75 pitches over 6 innings (and to one batter in the 7th), allowing 7 hits but no runs and no walks, striking out 6 Texas batters. Thornton and Warren split the 7th inning. Still no runs. Betances on for the 8th, Robertson the 9th and 10th, and then Kelley in the 11th. Still not a single run from either side. David Huff threw a scoreless 12th and came back for the 13th.

And that’s when things started to get interesting. The lead-off batter in the 13th inning got a solo home run, so the Rangers were up 1-0 as they went into the bottom of the 13th. Now, the Yankees just fought off the Rangers for 12 1/2 innings, so they weren’t about to let them go without any effort. And honestly, they had a couple of really close calls in the 11th and 12th, putting runners in scoring position, even loading the bases with 1 out (in the 12th), but couldn’t cobble together a last-minute run to end the game. So in the bottom of the 13th, Gardner got on base with a double, moved to 3rd on Jeter’s sacrifice bunt, and then scored on Ellsbury’s single.

The game is tied 1-1 and into the 14th inning we go.

Recent acquisition pitcher Jeff Francis was called on to pitch the 14th inning. Francis was signed on July 11, and tonight was his debut as a Yankee. 12 pitches later, and the Yankees had a chance to finish this game with a win.

With 1 out, Brian Roberts smacked a ground-rule double and advanced to 3rd on Cervelli’s single. And then Chase Headley is up to bat. Headley came into the game in the 8th inning and took over at 3rd making an awesome jumping grab and contributing much to the defense on the hot corner. So now, it was his chance to do something offensively for the Yankees. So a nice single scored Roberts and won his new team the game in a walk-off single, with a final score of 2-1 Yankees. Plus, Francis earned his first win of the season as part of his own Yankee debut. A long night perhaps, but a very good night for those two new Yankees.

So if there are any lingering doubts about Headley’s potential contributions as a Yankee, I think he earned himself a whole bunch of new New York fans tonight. That is, I suppose, those that were either still awake to watch the game or those still lingering in the progressively emptying stadium. It’s going to be interesting to watch him more this season, but I have high hopes for him over there at 3rd base, something I think is shared by the Yankees organization.

I don’t think the shake-ups are over with that looming trade deadline of July 31 quickly approaching next week. But when I think back to the last couple of years, I am reminded of a couple of great pick-ups at that deadline that certainly worked out well for the Yankees during their second half. Anyone else remember Ichiro in 2012 and Soriano in 2013? Yeah, it’s not always bad news. It doesn’t always work out, but these things have a way of sorting themselves out for the better. And I’d prefer to hope for the better for everyone involved on all the aspects of this business of baseball.

Folks, let’s remember that while we enjoy the game, what makes it function is that it’s a business. It’s why they get paid and we have to buy tickets to watch a game. You pay to play in Little League, but you pay to watch in the Big Leagues. It’s a business. You may not always like it (and I know I certainly don’t), but it’s part of game. It’s why Boston still hates New York for the whole Babe Ruth fiasco almost 100 years ago before anyone who even attends the games were born. Because a businessman decided Ruth wasn’t important enough for his team and his overall life’s vision. It was business, and the Red Sox fans still blame him for their 86 year curse. It’s also why the Yankees became the team that they were. What’s good business for one team can sometimes be bad for the other. You just got to hope you’re on the right side of the deal when all the ink is dry, just like the Yankees in 1918.

Go Yankees!

Game 96: CIN vs. NYY — 9 strikeouts & a big win on a cloudy day

Before today’s game against the Reds, they presented Derek Jeter with their contribution to his “Not a Farewell Tour”. Reds’ GM and their All-Star 3rd baseman Frazier gifted Jeter with framed autographed jersey from two previous shortstops and captains. Down the center of the frame were special photos taken the day that Jeter was named the Yankees captain, which happened to take place while the Yankees were in Cincinnati playing the Reds in 2003.

The reason Frazier was chosen to be part of today’s ceremonies is because 16 years ago, 12-year old Frazier was part of the Little League World Series Championship team, and in recognition of his accomplishment, he was chosen to go to the 1998 All-Star Game and stand next to none other than 24-year old Derek Jeter.

Today, Brandon McCarthy got his first home start with the Yankees and proved himself to be worth the effort, grabbing today’s win. Over his 6 innings, he threw 99 pitches, allowed 6 hits and 1 run, and struck out an impressive 9 batters. That sole run, the only run the Reds would score all day, was a solo home run in the 5th inning.

Warren, Kelley, and Thornton split the last 3 innings and kept the Reds hitless and scoreless for the rest of the game, adding 4 more strikeouts to the collective total.

On the other side of the plate, the Yankees found their swing and kept swinging. In the 2nd, Carlos Beltran smacked a 2-out solo home run. In the 3rd, Brian Roberts reached on a fielding error and ended up at 2nd when the outfielder couldn’t control the ball; he would score on Brett Gardner’s single. In the 5th, Roberts at 3rd and Johnson at 2nd, Gardner’s sacrifice fly scored Roberts and Jeter’s single scored Johnson. Then in the 6th, bases loaded with McCann, Beltran, and Roberts, Kelly Johnson singled and scored both McCann and Beltran. Gardner’s sacrifice fly scored Roberts.

And so the final score was 7-1 Yankees. A nice win on a cloudy day in the Bronx. Not a terrible way to spend a Saturday, and I have to say I’m liking that they’re starting the second half off in the win column.

Go Yankees!

 

Game 92: NYY vs. BAL — 10th inning walk-off loss

Tonight’s game began the weekend series against Baltimore, the last 3 games before the All-Star Break. Hiroki Kuroda started tonight’s game, throwing 103 pitches over his 7 innings. While he was a little sloppy at times (3 wild pitches and 2 batters hit-by-pitch), the rest of his game was pretty good, allowing just 3 hits and 2 runs, striking out 3 batters. Actually, the Orioles couldn’t poke through Kuroda’s pitching until the 4th inning. A hit-by-pitch and single put runners on the corners, the first one scored on a wild pitch and the second on a sacrifice fly.

Prior to the Orioles’ offensive attempt, the Yankees racked up their own 2 runs. In the 2nd, Brian Roberts hit a 2-out solo home run, and Kelly Johnson hit his solo home run in the 3rd. This made the game all knotted up and tied 2-2 for quite some time.

Dellin Betances came on to relieve Kuroda in the 8th and 9th, spreading 23 pitches and 3 strikeouts over his 2 hitless innings. So when the game went into the bottom of the 10th, the Yankees turned to Adam Warren. Warren allowed a lead-off double that scored on a single just two batter later — a walk-off single to put the Orioles over the Yankees 3-2.

In the wake of the injury to Masahiro Tanaka, the baseball world is still reeling from the immediate loss and spinning around so many “potential outcomes”. (I say “baseball world” because the sports world in general seems rather preoccupied with another sport’s superstar’s recent signing to a former team.) The predicted rehab time for Tanaka is about 6 weeks, which puts him back in the rotation somewhere at the beginning of September should rehab go well (and I know everyone is certainly praying for that outcome). But like the class act that he is, Tanaka himself released a statement apologizing for his injury and promising to do what needs to be done to return whole and healthy. We continue to pray for a speedy, healthy recovery.

And some roster moves were made today. The Yankees acquired pitcher Jeff Francis and cash considerations from the Athletics. Francis had been designated for assignment and has a history of being a starter with previous teams, though he was used by the A’s as a reliever. No word on how they plan on adding him to the pitching staff. In addition to Francis, the Yankees designated Jim Miller for assignment and recalled Matt Daley from AAA Scranton.

One of the regular players yesterday commented that this never-ending injury plague seems to be focused on a particular part of their clubhouse, noting that last year it was the position players and this year it seems to be the pitchers. How about it’s no one after the All-Star Break?

Go Yankees!