Yankee alumni continue to make history in Hall of Fame

There was a lot of talk leading up to Tuesday night’s announcement as to who would be inducted into the Hall of Fame this coming summer. The select few would join Lee Smith and Harold Baines, the two veteran players selected by the Today’s Game Era ballot late last year. And if recent years have taught us anything, no one is ever a solid shoo-in, and certainly no one is ever voted in 100% of the time.

But no one is Mariano Rivera.

For the first time in 75 years of inductions, Rivera was the first player to ever garner 100% of the votes of the members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. And he beat some of the best in the business to get there. Ken Griffey Jr. got really close in 2016 with 99.32% of the votes, breaking Tom Seaver’s previous record from 1992 with 98.84%.

But you really couldn’t find a better person or player to be inducted with the highest honor of unanimous. Mariano Rivera was one of those players who just seemed to get better as the years went on. His 19-year professional career in pinstripes was marked by that special pitch, “the cutter”, something that was just a “lights out pitch” for nearly every batter he faced. He remains the all-time saves leader with 652 saves, was a 13-time All-Star, and was the MVP of the 1999 World Series, 2003 ALCS, and 2013 All-Star Game.

In addition, he was a family man and a man of strong but quiet faith, who brought a great sense of fun, joy, and leadership to the clubhouse and to his community. His family was with him when the announcement was made and their celebrations are just a small preview of all of Yankee Universe’s. The Hall of Fame’s glass ceiling of inaccessibility via unanimous has been broken, and the record holder was not only a Yankee, but one of the best guys to ever play the game on and off the field.

Joining Rivera this year on the stage in Cooperstown will be former teammate Mike Mussina, Edgar Martinez, and the family of the late Roy Halladay. Halladay enters with 85.4% of the vote. A pitcher with the Blue Jays and Phillies, he passed away in November 2017 in a plane accident near his Florida home, legacy on the field was outstanding, winning 2 Cy Young awards (2003, 2010), completed 7 games, was a 3-time 20-game winner and an 8-time All-Star. His sons continue his legacy, one currently a star pitcher for Penn State, who also got a chance to pitch in a Spring Training game last year against his dad’s former team (Blue Jays).

Edgar Martinez, a Mariners’ power-hitter for 18 seasons, boasts quite a few batting titles and 5 Silver Slugger awards. Martinez worked his way up the Hall of Fame election ladder, this being his 10th and final year eligible for the Hall, and ending up with 85.4% of the final vote.

And Yankees fans will remember Mike Mussina’s now famous moment telling manager Joe Torre to return to the dugout because he was going to finish the game in May 2006. He ended up finishing the game with 101 pitches, fending off the Tigers for the win. But that was just one of many in Mussina’s storied career, first with the Orioles and then with the Yankees for 18 seasons, including 7 Gold Gloves and being a 5-time All-Star. This was his 6th year on the ballot and finally eked over that 75% mark with 76.7% of the votes to become enshrined in the Hall.

Festivities will honor the six men this summer (July 19-22), with the formal ceremony occurring on Sunday, July 21. Seeing as Cooperstown is still in the middle of winter and about to get more snow (already over 2 inches this month alone) this weekend, summer festivities are sounding better and better. Congratulations to the whole 2019 Class on their well-deserved honor!

In quick Yankee news: the Yankees have officially traded starter Sonny Gray in a 3-team deal earlier this week. Sonny Gray and a minor league pitcher were traded to the Reds for an infield prospect and a future draft pick, but the Yankees turned around and sent that prospect to the Mariners for an outfield prospect Josh Stowers.

Gray’s deal was contingent on his acceptance of Cincinnati’s terms, which he ultimately agreed to — an additional 3-years with a club option for 2023. While Gray certainly will be missed in the clubhouse, his struggles at home led to early trade conversations. New York is a hard city to play for, so our best wishes follow Gray to the Midwest as he finds his footing in red rather than pinstripe blue.

And a small reminder: the Yankees’ first Spring Training game is exactly one month from today. Spring is just around the corner.

Go Yankees!

Game 99: CIN vs. NYY — Matinee magic & #SeverinoNeedsAHashtag

Luis Severino currently leads the Yankees pitchers in strikeouts at 145 (after today’s game), making his 4th in the AL and 9th overall. In his 20 games, he’s thrown 127.2 innings (the most of Yankees) and kept his opponents to a .224 batting average (best of Yankee starters).

Anyway, for today’s rare midweek matinees, Severino got the start for this finale game in this short series against the visiting Reds. He threw 112 pitches in his 7 innings, giving up just 3 hits, 2 walks, and 2 unearned runs, and struck out an impressive 9 batters. In fact, Severino held off the Reds until his final inning. The lead-off batter reached on a fielding error and then scored on a double. A wild pitch moved that runner to 3rd and then scored a bit later on a ground out. This strong outing set Severino up for his 7th win of the season.

Meanwhile, the Yankees padded their lead to give Severino cushion he clearly didn’t need. With 2 outs in the 3rd, Torreyes singled, moved to 2nd on Gardner’s single, and then scored on Clint Frazier’s single to get the Yankees on the board early. In the 5th, with 2 outs again, the 3 of them did exactly the same thing — Torreyes’ single, Gardner’s single, and Frazier’s RBI single. It was “deja vu all over again”.

Then in the 6th, with 1 out, Gregorius reached based on a sloppy throwing error, ending up at 2nd, and then scored on Chase Headley’s single. {Media note: apologies as there doesn’t seem to be a related video available.} After Todd Frazier was hit-by-a pitch, Ellsbury reached on a force attempt and fielding error to load the bases, after the Yankees challenged the out at 2nd and rightly won the overturn. Ronald Torreyes grounded out, but moved all the runners up and scored Headley.

In the 7th, the Yankees proved they weren’t done yet. Clint Frazier led off by working a walk and then scored on Gary Sanchez’s double. Sanchez then scored on Matt Holliday’s single. That was enough for the Reds’ starter who had yet to record an out in the 7th. But the Yankees weren’t done yet. Didi Gregorius hit a nice 2-run home run into the right field seats. And then Todd Frazier earned his Yankee pinstripes with his first Yankee home run, a 1-out solo shot to the left field seats for the “ToddFather“, as he was thus dubbed.

Luis Cessa took over for Severino and had a bit of trouble. A strikeout on a wild pitch allowed a runner to reach base (no, I still don’t like this “loophole”). Cessa then gave up a walk and a 3-run home run to add to the Reds’ score. Fortunately, the Yankees had quite a bit of a cushion. Again, not for Severino apparently, but for the other Luis today. David Robertson breezed through the 9th inning in just 7 pitches, continuing to remind Yankee fans what they loved about him the first time around.

In total, the Yankee pitchers got the Reds to strike out 12 times, while only allowing 4 hits. The Reds’ pitching staff had the reverse numbers — 12 allowed hits and just 4 strikeouts.

Final score: 9-5 Yankees, Yankees win series 2-0.

Now, regarding today’s title, I spent some time trying to figure out what to dub Severino in honor of his increasing push to be the Yankees’ newest ace pitcher. I mean, currently, we have hashtags for the other starters — Sabathia’s #CCStrong, #TanakaTime, Pineda’s #BigMike, and Montgomery’s minor league moniker that evolved into #GumbyNation. We’ve used other adjectives for pitchers that used to be part of the team, but I can’t seem to find a consensus when Severino has a great game, which lately is more often than not.

I mean, Emoji King Didi Gregorius uses the baby emoji to signify Severino’s role as part of the Baby Bombers to find a breakout role in last season. But that doesn’t really translate to hashtag material.

So I’m turning to you, faithful readers. If you have any ideas, use the comments section below or message me. I’m curious to see what you can come up with. You have about 5 days before his next start to come up with something good!

Go Yankees!

Game 98: CIN vs. NYY — The old “Jersey-Ohio Triple Play”

Back in the Bronx tonight, the Yankees hosted their first of two games against the visiting Reds for a short series. And they made sure it was a quick game (just 2 hours and 38 minutes) for the Yankees home debut of New Jersey native Todd Frazier against his former team. And they also made sure it was a quite memorable.

Jordan Montgomery got the start tonight and had a rather great outing tonight. He threw just 85 pitches into the 7th inning, giving up just 2 hits, a walk, and a run, striking out Cincinnati batters, and setting himself up for the win. That lone run was scored in the 6th when a lead-off double moved to 3rd on a ground out and then scored on another ground out.

Tommy Kahnle finished off the 7th inning in just 4 pitches, handing things over to Dellin Betances for the 8th. But Betances had some trouble with his strike zone tonight. With 2 outs, and after walking 2 batters, he gave up a double that scored the lead runner to double the Reds’ score. Adam Warren got out of the jam with a 7-pitch strike out. Aroldis Chapman breezed through the 9th with just 8 pitches, earning his 12th save of the season.

Meanwhile, the Yankees got on board in rather dramatic fashion thanks to New Jersey-born Todd Frazier. First, the Yankees loaded up the bases in the 2nd with consecutive singles to Holliday, Gregorius, and Headley. Things were looking up for the first at-bat as a Yankee for Frazier, but he hit a little grounder to the shortstop as Holliday came in to score the run. The Reds shortstop stepped on 2nd for out #1 and then fired it to 1st for a fairly standard double play (out #2 at 1st). But they caught Gregorius between 2nd and 3rd and got him in a rundown, between 3rd and the shortstop who started it all for out #3 of what became a triple play. Yes, that is a 6-6-3-3-5-6 for your scoring geeks. But I call it the “Jersey-Ohio Triple Play” (which is really-what?-Pennsylvania?).

Anyway, fortunately, the Yankees weren’t fazed by such a weird play and kept adding to their score bit-by-bit. In the 4th, Judge led-off with a single, moved to 2nd on a ground out, was sent to 3rd on a balk, and then scored on Gregorius’ sacrifice fly. With 1 out and Wade on 1st in the 5th, Wade scored on Austin Romine’s double. Later in that inning, the Yankees loaded up the bases with 2 outs, but a ground out ended that threat. For an insurance run, Didi Gregorius hit a big 2-out solo home run in the 8th to keep the Yankees in the lead and seal their victory tonight.

 

Final score: 4-2 Yankees.

Fun triple play trivia: Tonight’s play was the 3rd one this season, the first time a run scored safely during a triple play since May 2006 in all of MLB, and the Reds’ first one in over 22 years (May 12, 1995). The article linked above listed the Yankees’ last triple play as against the Rays on September 27, 2011. But that could be slightly misleading. To clarify, 2011 was the last time before tonight that the Yankees batting into a triple play, but they’ve certainly had a their share as fielders. I’ve covered two in my time on this blog — one against the Rays in April 2014 and another against the Orioles in 2013 (this is the fun one!).

Go Yankees!

Game 31: NYY vs. CIN — Queen City split

Despite some early power, the Yankees fell to the old bad single inning to end up splitting this short series. Unfortunately, sometimes that’s all it takes to swing a game.

CC Sabathia got the start in tonight’s game against the Reds in Cincinnati. He threw 91 pitches in 6 innings, gave up 7 hits, 2 walks, and 5 runs, and struck out just 2 Reds’ batters. To be perfectly fair, with a lone inning exception, Sabathia had a rather great outing. But it would be the 6-hit 2nd inning that would make all the difference in tonight’s game.

In the 2nd, Sabathia loaded up the bases quickly with 2 singles and a walk before getting his first out of the inning (a strikeout). A single then scored 2 runners. Another loaded up the bases again. Another scored 2 more. And yet another scored one more for the Reds. Then Sabathia got his 2nd strikeout (of the night) and a groundout to end the inning. But the damage was done.

Dellin Betances walked his first 2 batters of his 7th inning, but then focused in and got 3 straight nasty strikeouts. Chad Green, recently called up (see below), threw a nearly flawless 8th inning, adding 2 more strikeouts to the total, but keeping the Reds scoreless during his tenure.

Meanwhile, the Yankees got on the board first in a very Yankee way. In the 1st, Gary Sanchez hit a big 1-out solo home run, and then Didi Gregorius jumped in on the fun in the 2nd inning with his own 1-out solo home run, his first of the 2017 season actually. Starlin Castro led-off the 4th inning with a double and ended up at 3rd after 2 outs before scoring on Gregorius’ single.

But then there was a whole lot of nothing. Both teams had their opportunities to advance, but neither did as both pitching staffs fairly breezed their way through the rest of the game.

Final score: 5-3 Reds, split series 1-1.

I did mention that after the marathon game on Sunday there would be some roster moves. Well, there was one yesterday. The Yankees optioned infielder Rob Refsnyder back to AAA Scranton in exchange for recalling reliever Chad Green, who ended up pitching in tonight’s game. Fortunately, these last 2 games in Cincy have been relatively normal, with starters going deep into the game without exhausting a bullpen with extra innings of sloppy mistakes.

Now, with an off-day, the Yankee head back to New York for a 4-game series against the Astros, who are having a pretty great season themselves. Plus, there’s some big pre-game ceremony on Sunday that everyone’s making a pretty big deal out of (seriously, it’s Jeter). Also, it’s Mother’s Day, so consider this your warning to make sure your mom/wife/sister/etc. have a gift on their way to them.

And for your viewing pleasure, the Yankees continue to make those hilarious videos for Yankees OnDemand. This one features the hype around Gary Sanchez and his hashtag #IAmGary. It also has a surprising guest appearance by reliever Adam Warren. (Warning: you will laugh!)

Go Yankees!

Game 30: NYY vs. CIN — The unstoppable Yankees

Okay, so the Yankees are currently on quite the win streak (currently at 6). So much so that the Yankees are currently the best team in MLB. To be fair, it’s a bit tenuous because several teams are right behind them. But for now, it’s all Yankee at the top of the list. And I’m going to take it for as long as that’s true.

Masahiro Tanaka flew to Cincinnati before the Yankees even entered into extra innings at last night’s marathon game in Chicago. So, tonight’s starter was well-rested and ready to go. He may be the only one that’s well-rested, but the whole team was ready to go. Tanaka threw 112 pitches in his 7 innings, getting hit hard by the Reds, who are just a 1/2 game behind in the NL Central. He gave up 10 hits, a walk, and 4 runs (3 earned), and struck out just 6 batters.

In the 1st, Tanaka gave up 3 consecutive singles that scored the Reds’ first run. With 2 outs and a runner at 1st in the 5th, a batter reached 1st on a fielding error that put runners on the corners. A single scored the lead runner (the unearned run). And in the 7th, with 2 outs and a runner on base with a walk, Tanaka gave up a big 2-run home run to double the Reds’ score.

Then it was up to Clippard and Layne to breeze through the roster in the 8th and 9th innings. Clippard, still fresh from last night’s outing, and Layne, unused and ready to join the fray. Both continued to prove just how good the Yankees’ bullpen can be, and part of the reason they’re in 1st place and on a great winning streak.

The Yankees meanwhile dinged into the Reds’ pitching staff, going through them like hotcakes. The Reds used 6 pitchers in tonight’s game, as their starter didn’t make it out of the 5th inning. In the 1st, Gardner led-off the game by reaching on a missed catch error. Then Hicks singled and Ellsbury worked a 1-out walk to load up the bases. Gary Sanchez’s single scored Gardner and Hicks, and Gregorius’ single scored Ellsbury.

Then in the 2nd, Torreyes led-off with a single, moved to 2nd on a sacrifice bunt, and then scored on Aaron Hicks’ 2-out single. With the bases loaded with consecutive singles in the 5th, Gregorius’ sacrifice fly scored just 1 of the runners.

Things got dangerous in the 7th. Hicks was hit by a pitch and Holliday worked a walk. Then an out later, Sanchez was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Another out, and the reliever hit Chase Headley to score Hicks and load the bases again. It’s a wonder none of these guys were hurt more than a few bruises. Ronald Torreyes singled home Holliday before Sanchez was thrown out trying to make it home as well.

In the 8th, pinch-hitting Castro got on base with a single and then scored as part of Brett Gardner’s monster 2-run home run. One out later, Matt Holliday joined the fun with a solo home run to tack on one more run for the Yankees tonight. Despite the bases loaded a bit later in the inning, they weren’t able to get another run across the plate.

Final score: 10-4 Yankees.

The Yankees are gearing up for Derek Jeter Day, coming this Sunday in the Bronx. They will retire his number in Monument Park before the game against the Astros. It’s also Mother’s Day, so expect a lot of pink touches everywhere that night. In preparation for Sunday’s special pre-game ceremony, the Yankees are relying on recent nostalgia to gear up the hype, remembering Jeter’s famous plays (“The Dive”, “The Flip”, “DJ3K”, and more).

After Sunday, it will be like the final door to the past is closed and the Yankees can move forward and focus on that elusive #28, with which each win is looking more and more possible this year. It’s amazing to think of this new generation of legends and greatness. Not to compare them to any previous legends, but to allow them the freedom to create their own paths in their own way. Who cares about the “next Jeter” or “new Mariano”! Let’s have the “Judge Bombs” and the “El Gary” and “Bird Power” and everyone else carving their own piece of this cake.

Go Yankees!

Game 97: CIN vs. NYY — Sweeping win, I blame Ellsbury

Today’s starter Hiroki Kuroda is the only regular starter left in the rotation after some crazy injuries seemed to specifically target the pitching staff of the Yankees. (Starters on the DL: Sabathia, Tanaka, Nova, and Pineda; only Pineda and Tanaka could possibly return this season.) Though substitute starters Phelps, Greene, McCarthy, and Whitley are currently doing a great job at rising to the occasion.

Kuroda started today and really threw a great game, which is a total shame that he ended up with a no-decision. His 99 pitches over 6.2 innings, allowed 3 hits and 1 run (unearned), striking out 6 Reds batters. A fielding error allowed a runner to get on base in the 5th inning. He advanced to 2nd on a sacrifice bunt and then scored on a ground-rule double.

But the Yankees came striking back in the bottom of the 5th. Johnson and Gardner on base with back-to-back walks, Derek Jeter tied up the game with an RBI single, scoring Johnson. Then Jacoby Ellsbury singled home Gardner to push the Yankees ahead 2-1.

In the 7th, the Yankees pulled Kuroda and opted for Dellin Betances to finish out that inning. Betances came back in for the 8th and ended up giving up a solo home run to tie the game again 2-2. The Reds were now fighting for a win in this weekend series, but the Yankees called on their best reliever David Robertson to keep the ball rolling and give the Yankees a chance in the bottom of the 9th. He did exactly that with a quick 1-2-3 13-pitch 9th inning. And he was all set-up for his first win of the season.

So the Yankees attacked the bottom of the 9th with grit and determination, facing one of the best and fastest throwing closers in all of MLB. That didn’t seem to faze the heart of the Yankees line-up. Ellsbury took a 9-pitch at-bat, with pitches all over 100 mph, and ended up with a single. While Teixeira bats (and eventually strikes out), Ellsbury ends up at 3rd after a stolen base and a wild pitch. Two pitches to Brian McCann and a solid single off a 100 mph fastball, Ellsbury came jogging home to score the winning run.

The Yankees won today’s game 3-2 and swept the series against Cincinnati.

Now, I do want to highlight Jacoby Ellsbury today. As mentioned multiple times above, he seemed always seemed to be involved in some of the major plays made today. Overall, he went 4-for-4 today, with an RBI, a walk, and the winning run scored. Plus there was a really pretty sliding catch he made that saved a run from being scored. He also currently has the highest average on the regular roster at .289.

The Yankees also honored the military on Military Appreciation Day. Their uniforms were tailored to have the NY logo on their front and their numbers on the back be filled in with desert camouflage. They honored Special Operations Warrior Foundation and the United States Armed Forces. Before the game, they had a member of the Golden Knights parachute into Yankee Stadium, and the official vocalist of West Point Academy sang “God Bless America” during the 7th inning stretch. I am proud that the Yankees are huge supporters of our military and our veterans throughout the year, honoring them at every home game. It reminds me that we should be living that kind of life of gratitude on a daily basis, and not just on special occasions or holidays.

A big thank you to our military service members, past and present, and their families for their sacrifices for our freedoms!

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!