Games 102 & 103: KC vs. NYY — Split doubleheader thanks to more rainy days

The Yankees’ game last night was rained out, making it the 9th time that the Yankees have been weather-delayed this season. Fortunately, there was time (and a clear skies kind of forecast) for the next day for the Yankees and Royals to play and split a make-up doubleheader.

Game 1
Luis Severino had yet another bad outing in the regularly scheduled game that became the first game today, earning his 4th loss in an otherwise stellar season. He threw 95 pitches into the 5th innings, gave up 8 hits, a walk, and 6 runs, and struck out 5 Royals’ batters.

In the 3rd, a 1-out double and walk both scored on a long double to get the Royals on the board first. A lead-off single in the 5th ended up at 3rd on a ground-rule double, and then they both scored on a single. The next batter hit a 2-run home run to further the Royals’ lead, and that was it for Severino’s night. Warren came on in relief and sailed his way through the next 8 outs.

The Yankees had no trouble getting on base, but instead finding trouble scoring runs for most of the game. They were held off until the 5th inning, with Hicks’ 2-out single and Giancarlo Stanton’s 2-run home run to get the Yankees on the board. In the 6th, Torres singled, moved to 2nd on Bird’s single, and then scored on Neil Walker’s single. Austin Romine hit into a double play but Bird still scored a run.

But then later in that inning, they loaded up the bases and couldn’t get anyone home once again. In the 7th, Gregorius led-off with a single and then scored on Gleyber Torres’ double. Torres, however, got thrown out trying to stretch his double into a triple. The Yankees continued to put runners in scoring position, but couldn’t chip away any further at the Royals’ early lead.

The Yankees’ later relievers David Robertson and Chasen Shreve had less than ideal outings themselves, but it didn’t matter in the long run as the damage was already done. A 3-run home run in the 8th and a sacrifice fly in the 9th added more runs for the Royals this first game of the day.

Final score for game 1: 10-5 Royals

Game 2
The second game of the day was officially the make-up game. Friday’s game was preceded by a giveaway of a bobblehead featuring CC Sabathia, who happened to be scheduled to pitch and promptly did so in tonight’s game. Sabathia had a decent outing, throwing just 79 pitches into the 5th inning, gave up 6 hits, 2 walks, and 2 runs, and struck out an impressive 8 Royals’ batters.

He gave up a 1-out solo homer in the 3rd, and then loaded up the bases in the 5th. With 2 outs, he gave up another walk to walk in the Royals’ second run of the game. But then Jonathan Holder got a stellar strike out to end the threat. His 6th inning was less heroic, giving up a lead-off single that moved to 2nd on a sacrifice bunt. Chad Green came in and gave up a single to score another run but held the Royals off from further damage.

New Yankee Zach Britton had his own issues in the 7th. After 2 quick outs, he had trouble finding that 3rd out, giving up a double, a single, a walk to load the bases, and another walk to score another Royals’ run. But then Betances and Chapman each had scoreless innings to keep the Royals from adding to their score like in the first game.

Of course, this would mean nothing if the Yankees continued to put runners on base but stranded them there. So, when they struck first in the 1st, things were looking up. Gardner led-off with a single, moved to 2nd on Stanton’s single, then onto 3rd on a fly out, before scoring on Miguel Andujar’s single. Bird was hit by a pitch, which loaded the bases, and Neil Walker’s sacrifice fly scored Stanton. And Shane Robinson hit his first home run as a Yankee, a big 2-out solo shot in the 4th.

After the Royals tied up the game and then took the lead, the Yankees needed another good inning so they wouldn’t end up on the wrong end of today’s games. They got that in the 8th. Greg Bird hit the 2nd pitch of his lead-off at-bat into the Yankees’ bullpen for a solid home run to re-tie up the game. Then the Yankees loaded up the bases (again) with Walker’s double, Romine’s single, and Torres’ walk. It would be Aaron Hicks’ solid sacrifice fly to score Walker, the winning run.

Final score of game 2: 5-4 Yankees

Roster moves: after Aaron Judge was moved to the 10-day DL thanks to his fractured wrist, the Yankees recalled Tyler Wade, who can easily function as a reliable utility man in the infield and outfield. They also activated pitcher JA Happ as the 26th man for today’s doubleheader. Happ will be the starter for tomorrow’s game.

And in order to get down to that magical number of 25 for the roster, the Yankees used tonight’s big trade to do so. In a deal with the Cardinals, the Yankees got infielder Luke Voit and Future Considerations (or cash for their international signings) in exchange for relievers Chasen Shreve and Giovanny Gallegos. Shreve, a favorite in the clubhouse, was on a recent upswing after some pretty disappointing outings earlier this season. Trades area always hard, but sometimes, it’s the best for everyone to shake things up and get a fresh start with a new organization. Best of luck to them all.

Also, it’s Hall of Fame Weekend in Cooperstown, New York. The induction ceremony for the class of 2018 is tomorrow afternoon. While no Yankees are entering the Hall this year, it should be a memorable event, as always, featuring some well-known faces from the other side of the field during some key events in Yankee history. With some of the recent retirements of the stars of the most recent dynasty of Yankees (like the “Core Four”), the next Yankee in the Hall is just a year or two away.

Go Yankees!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But who’s counting?

Go Yankees!

Game 103: TB vs. NYY — Big show by “Toe” ends in “no go”… a timely trade and Cooperstown Class of ’17

And that is my last time I attempt a New York Post style headline…

Anyway, the Yankees were looking for a sweep of the Rays with this final game of their 4-game weekend series. But despite some great offense by a single player, the pitching early on had some serious issues, so Ronald Torreyes’ shining afternoon wasn’t enough to pick up the Yankees over the Rays.

Jordan Montgomery got the start today and just had a really difficult time getting through his afternoon. He threw 71 pitches into just the 3rd inning, giving up 6 hits, 2 walks, and 4 runs, and still struck out 5 Rays batters. In the 1st, a 1-out walk moved to 2nd on a 2-out single and then scored on another single to get the Rays on the board early. Montgomery loaded up the bases in the 3rd with 2 outs and then cleared the bases through the process of a 2-RBI single and an RBI single.

Luis Cessa was called in to get out of the jam, and despite an initial wild pitch that moved runners to scoring position, Cessa got that necessary strikeout to escape the 3rd inning unscathed. Cessa ended up pitching into the 7th inning, throwing a rather clean game up until that 7th inning where he gave up a walk and single before handing things over to Chasen Shreve.

Shreve loaded up the bases but got 2 outs in the 7th before passing the baton to Chad Green who got out of the jam with a great strikeout (though the Rays batter certainly didn’t like the call). Green went on to finish off the game, getting into his own bit of trouble only in the 8th inning. A lead-off single stole 2nd and then scored on a 2-out double. Green added 6 strikeouts of his own through his pretty good outing to the total for the Yankees’ pitchers tonight at 16.

The Yankees’ offense rested on a single utility/bench player. Ronald Torreyes is really good when he needs to be. In the 2nd, Headley worked a 1-out walk and ended up at 2nd on a wild pitch. Then it was Torreyes to hit a great 2-run home run into the left field seats to briefly give the Yankees the lead. Behind again in the 4th, Todd Frazier worked a 2-out walk and then scored on Torreyes’ solid double to put the Yankees within a run of the Rays’ lead.

Unfortunately, the Rays had a random day where their bullpen actually did its job, so the Yankees were stunted a bit in the latter half of the game, despite some hope with 2 base runners in the bottom of the 9th that just didn’t pan out in the end.

Final score: 5-3 Rays, Yankees win series 3-1.

Injury news: Austin Romine seemed to have a target on his body today for the ball. He was hit twice by the ball. In the 2nd, an bad foul ball bounced up into his throat, which stunned the catcher for a bit, but he stayed in the game like the trooper he is. But then in the 6th, while at bat, he was hit by a pitch on the side of his hand. He stayed in the game initially, but as his hand continued to swell, he was pulled from the game and sent for the requisite x-rays. X-rays came back negative, but I imagine lots of ice and rest (for both hand and throat) are in order for the next few days.

Scranton Shuttle: Before today’s game, the Yankees optioned Caleb Smith back to AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and recalled Chasen Shreve, who ended up in today’s game.

Over night, the Yankees finalized a trade to add to their lagging starting rotation. They acquired left-handed veteran starter Jaime Garcia from the Twins for minor league pitchers Zack Littell (previously with AA Trenton) and Dietrich Enns (previously with AAA Scranton) and cash considerations.

Garcia was with the Cardinals for much of his 9-year career, even helping them win the 2011 World Series. He started this year with the Braves before moving briefly to the Twins, only to be used as trade-bait for the Yankees. They now expect him to make his Yankee debut on Thursday in Cleveland when the Yankees start their 4-game weekend series there.

And just a couple hundred miles northwest of Yankee Stadium, crowds gathered to celebrate the newest inductees to the baseball Hall of Fame. Former players Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines, and Ivan Rodriguez and executive John Schuerholz and MLB Commissioner Emeritus Bud Selig were honored and officially became part of the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY. Congratulations to the newest legends of the game we all love!

Go Yankees!

It’s almost Spring…

Well, now that the other major American sport has taken its bow, it’s time to focus on the real American pastime. And before you’re wondering, I write a blog about the New York Yankees, which team could I possibly back in the big game last night — the team that plays in Boston or the one that doesn’t?

Anyway, just a couple of days ago, the Yankees posted pictures of their staff loading up all their equipment, loading it onto the truck, and sending it on its way down to Tampa. Many on the current roster and invitees (including quite a few of the Baby Bombers on the top 100 prospects list) are showing up at the minor league complex for early workouts. Tickets to games are being purchased, renovations at the field are almost done, and the countdown in down to mere days. Yes, Yankee Universe, it’s almost Spring Training.

The Yankees have wrapped up the last few weeks of their off-season in many ways. Last month, Chance Adams, Starlin Castro, Clint Frazier, Chase Headley, Matt Holliday, James Kaprielian, CC Sabathia, Gary Sanchez, Justus Sheffield, and Gleyber Torres helped out with the Yankees first ever “Winter Warm-up“, an event designed to introduce new players to New York and its legacy and community with the help of some of the veterans. This included surprising a life-long fan with VIP tickets; touring the City and Yankee Stadium; holding a live-streamed town hall for fans; visiting a senior center, an elementary school, a senior community event, and cancer center; calling season ticket holders personally; and surprising Bronx residents joining them for lunch at a local restaurant.

At a special awards banquet in January, quite a few Yankees were recognized for their contributions in baseball this past season. Last year’s “Warriors Three” (or No-Runs DMC, as some rogue reporters seems to believe they should be dubbed), Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller, and Aroldis Chapman were recognized by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America with the “Willie, Mickey, and the Duke Award” for their outstanding teamwork this year. What is especially significant is that this three-headed monster was split in July when Chapman went to the Cubs (and got a ring) and Miller went to the Indians (and almost got a ring, settling for the AL MVP instead). Betances took over the closing role to finish the season but is more than willing to slide back to set-up man after the Yankees resigned Chapman in December. The local writers’ group also honored other Yankees at that dinner. Chase Headley received the “Good Guy Award” and Mark Teixeira shared the Slocum Award for Long and Meritorious Service with Boston’s David Ortiz, in addition to a number of other awards given across baseball.

Overlapping Spring Training once again is the World Baseball Classic. As of this posting, only two Yankees have committed to play for the WBC. Didi Gregorius will play for the Dutch team, which is scheduled to start its games March 7 in Seoul against South Korea, Taipei, and Israel. Dellin Betances has committed to play for the Dominican Republic, which starts its games March 9 in Miami against Canada, the United States, and Columbia. There was talk that Sanchez might join Betances on the reigning championship team, but the closer to Spring Training, the less likely the chances. Masahiro Tanaka was offered a spot on the Japanese team, but opted for Spring Training to get back in the momentum of being a Yankee and come out stronger than last year.

In a single day last month, the baseball world lost two of its members in separate car accidents in the Dominican Republic. Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura, 25, was a key part of the Royals’ 2014 World Series attempt and their 2015 World Series win, even earning Rookie of the Year in 2014. Former third baseman Andy Marte, 33, was originally signed by the Braves in 2005 before spending the bulk of his career with the Indians and most recently the 2014 season with the Diamondbacks and a team in South Korea. Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with their families and friends as they mourn their loved ones.

I wish I could tell you the Yankees had some good news about the Hall of Fame results, but it was not to be this year. Instead, the BBWAA (the same guys who recognized Teixeira, Betances, and Headley) decided that just three former players would make it to Cooperstown this year — Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines, and Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez. The trio are the only three who made the cut-off at 75% of the earned votes. Most Yankee fans will probably only remember two names — Mike Mussina (holding on for another year at 51.8% of the vote) and Jorge Posada (who failed to get the minimum 5% voting needed to stay on the ballot next year at 3.8%).

Bagwell spent all 15 seasons (1991-2005) with the Astros, as their star first baseman. Raines is predominantly known as the left fielder of the Expos (1979-1990, 2001), but he also spent some of his 23 seasons with the White Sox, Athletics, Marlins, Orioles, and Yankees. Raines spent his time with the Yankees during the start of the most recent dynasty, 1996-1998, even earning a 1996 World Series ring for his postseason contributions. Rodriguez spent the majority of his 21 seasons with the Rangers (1991-2002, 2009), eventually spending time with the Marlins, Tigers, Astros, Nationals, and Yankees. Rodriguez may be the most familiar to current Yankee fans as he spent the latter half of the 2008 season in pinstripes as back-up catcher. As expected, neither of the former Yankees will be donning a Yankee insignia on their monument plaque in the Hall of Fame, which will be honored and unveiled on July 30.

Okay, so here’s important Spring dates to remember: February 14 — pitchers and catchers report to camp (8 days away); February 15 — pitcher and catchers work out day, Steinbrenner Field open to public if you want to watch the work outs (9 days); February 18 — full squad reporting day (12 days); February 19 — full squad work out day (13 days); February 24 — Spring Training home opener vs. Phillies (18 days); April 2 — Season Opener at the Rays (55 days); and April 10 — Home opener vs. the Rays (62 days).

Yes, it’s almost Spring…

Go Yankees!

All the latest updates, farewells, outreaches, and honors… it’s been a busy 5 weeks!

Between the Cubs’ victory parade, postseason awards, Thanksgiving, Winter Meetings, and now the approaching week filled with Christmas, Hanukkah, and the New Year, the Yankees have been everything but quiet and stagnant. Some years, Yankees’ GM Brian Cashman’s job seems to just sit back and watch other teams do the postseason dance that is somewhere between an elegant waltz and a fire-sale at times. But not this year.

Cashman has been busy, even making some pretty big moves. First, in the middle of last month, he traded catcher Brian McCann (and cash considerations) to the Astros for a pair of young pitchers Albert Abreu and Jorge Guzman. Sorry, McCann fans, but McCann wasn’t exactly ready to be a once-a-week player with Gary Sanchez taking a much larger (and well-deserved role). This was a good move for everybody.

Earlier this week, as part of the Winter Meetings (hosted at the beautiful Gaylord Resort, just south of D.C.), Cashman also made a play for two big players. First, he signed Matt Holliday, a veteran outfielder who is slated to primarily fill the position previously occupied by Alex Rodriguez and Carlos Beltran (outfielder/designated hitter). Holliday, a 7-time All-Star, began his career with the Rockies, spending 5 seasons there and making a name for himself, before finding a nice home with the Cardinals for the last 7 1/2 seasons, being a crucial part of their 2011 World Series championship. Holliday seems very excited to be playing in New York, which isn’t really surprising as he wore #7 in St. Louis for Mickey Mantle. You know, David Ortiz said once last season that there are two kinds of players — those who were born to play with the Yankees and those born to play against them (Ortiz being the latter).

Another big pick-up was the deal made when the Yankees signed Aroldis Chapman to a 5-year, $86 million deal. Yes, Chapman fans, two of the Warriors Three will be back in the Bronx for the foreseeable future. This time, with Chapman’s shiny World Series ring glaring and pushing the Yankees to give him another one. A physical exam is still pending the finality of this contract, but things look good for the closer to return to Yankee pinstripes for the next five seasons.

Cashman’s focus was clearly on building up the bullpen as most of the roster moves these last 5 weeks. So try to keep up: Branden Pinder was originally designated for assignment early in November, but then was outrighted to AAA Scranton, so we’ll be seeing Pinder again; Joe Mantiply (after being claimed off waivers from the Tigers), Nick Rumbelow, and Nathan Eovaldi were designated for assignment and then released all three of them just before Thanksgiving; James Pazos was traded to the Mariners for reliever Zack Littell; Dustin Ackley was released; Jacob Lindgren elected free agency; and the Yankees then filled a bunch of holes on their roster with minor leaguers Jorge Mateo and Yefrey Ramirez (from the Single-A Tampa Yankees), Ronald Herrera and Miguel Andujar (from AA Trenton),  and Dietrich Enns and Giovanny Gallegos (from AAA Scranton).

But it didn’t stop there. In coordination with the Rule 5 Draft, the Yankees moved some minor leaguers around and said some goodbyes. The Brewers claimed reliever Caleb Smith, the Red catcher Luis Torrens, reliever Tyler Jones went to Arizona, and the Pirates got reliever Tyler Webb. The Yankees themselves picked up a few minor leaguers, catcher Jorge Saez (Blue Jays) and reliever Colten Brewer (Pirates).

All the postseason awards have been doled out, and the Yankees got… two. And nothing went to our Rookie of the Year, Gary Sanchez. No, the big Yankee winner this postseason was Brett Gardner, who took home both the Gold Glove and Defensive Player of the Year for doing the outstanding job we’re used to seeing out there in left field.

However, there are a few alumni honors come next month. BBWAA vote for the Class of 2017, with any new inductees to be announced next month. Several former Yankees grace the ballot this year, none more so than Jorge Posada (the first of the Core Four to reach such an honor). However, the chances everyone seems to hold for Posada (and the few other Yankees alums) seem rather slim, especially as the voters seem to be rather stringent in their voting, less nostalgic as your average baseball fan and more strategic in their selection parameters.

Also selected for Hall of Fame honors this year are current Braves’ president John Schuerholz and former MLB commissioner Bud Selig, both elected by the Today’s Game Committee. Other familiar faces on this ballot, who failed to make the cut this year, include former manager and player Lou Pinella, former players Albert Belle, Orel Hershiser, and Mark McGwire, and former Yankees owner George Steinbrenner. Debates as to which of these deserve to be in Cooperstown rage on.

Two other awards honored journalists for outstanding writing and broadcasting — the late Bill King, known for his coverage of San Francisco sports, distinctive facial hair, and his catchphrase “Holy Toledo!”, and veteran journalist Claire Smith, who became the first woman to receive the honor. Neither will be officially in the Hall of Fame, but will be part of a permanent exhibit to honor such journalist excellence and contribution to the game. I mean, without them, our knowledge of the game would not be what it is today, even with direct information like social media. It would certainly make my job a lot harder!

And speaking of Yankee alumni, the Yankees announced that they will be officially retiring the number 2 in honor of Derek Jeter on before the game on Sunday, May 14. Rather fitting really, with the extensive knowledge of how close Jeter is with his family, Jeter’s long-sacred number will become the 22nd one the Yankees send to Monument Park, and with that move, all the single digits (save a zero) are officially removed from jersey circulation. Single game tickets are not directly available yet (though they feature prominently on the secondary online marketplaces), though season tickets and multi-game ticket packages are available.

This week, in Tampa, the Yankees foundation hosted their holiday celebration, led by Jennifer Steinbrenner Swindal with special guests Alex Rodriguez, Tino Martinez, and Nick & Joanna Swisher. Hundreds of local children were treated to the Yankees 28th Annual Holiday Concert, complete with gifts and carol singing, in preparation for the holidays. The Yankees also hosted other local community outreaches in New York for the holidays including a Thanksgiving food drive and giving back to the children and families of the Bronx with a great goodie bag full of both basic necessities and special gifts.

Looking ahead, many players have already committed to playing for various teams around the world in the World Baseball Classic this March. The Yankees only current representative is Dellin Betances, who agreed to play for the reigning champions, the Dominican Republic, alongside former teammate Cano. Other former Yankees who will play in the WBC include Martin for Canada and Beltran for Puerto Rico. Betances, who was also recently married, will be an outstanding contribution to any team. Also, a big congratulations to Dellin and Janisa Betances!

As far as everything else, there’s still 63 days until Pitchers and Catchers report for Spring Training. So there’s a lot of time left for the Yankees to do something else, despite reports that they’re pretty much done with big moves this off-season. That statement, however, doesn’t preclude any minor “tweaking”, and you must know by now they love their “tweaking”. Enjoy your holiday season!

Go Yankees!

Game 97: SF vs. NYY — Extra inning let-down

Even if it’s summertime, a mid-afternoon game that goes into extra innings is bound to face a few natural issues — loss of sunlight, shadows creeping across the diamond, heat exhaustion, and the inexplicable progressive reduction of fans in the seats. Of course, today’s game was nearly four and a half hours long. And the nearly 47,000 fans had sat through a rather tight, rather uneventful (at times) game. But still, “it ain’t over…” and all that.

And then it was.

But first, Ivan Nova dominated this middle game with the visiting Giants from the pitcher’s mound, going 96 strong pitches through his full 7 innings. He gave up just 6 hits and 2 walks, allowing just 1 run, and struck out 7 Giants batters. His lone run allowed was a lead-off solo shot in the 5th inning. So between him and the defense, the Giants weren’t doing nothing.

Of course, the Yankees certainly had their own issues of a similar nature. Facing another great starter of recent World Series fame (though with a team that won in the odd years), the Yankees made him pitch a lot — 117 pitches in just 6 innings, got 6 hits and a walk, and struck out 9 times. Plus, they also scored a run, albeit an unearned run because the Giants defense just isn’t what it should be for how high they are in the standings. (Seriously now, how bad does that make the NL West that a sloppy defensive team is at the top of the standings? Research is needed clearly.)

Anyway, the Yankees got on the board first in the 4th inning. With 1 out, Didi Gregorius singled to get on base. Then Mark Teixeira singled, but thanks to a lovely fielding error by the outfielder, Gregorius made it all the way home to score the run. Of course, it helps that Gregorius is rather speedy in base-running.

{Video of Yankees’ defense showing off: Gardner, Headley, the teamwork of Gardner-Gregorius, and the infield collectively.}

Anyway, with the game all tied up for the 8th inning, the Yankees sent out Andrew Miller for a quick shutdown of the Giants — 10 pitches, 2 strikeouts, a standard Miller inning really. Aroldis Chapman found his somewhat normal position in the 9th, but then came out for the 10th to continue the set-down, adding 3 total strikeouts of his own over his 2 innings. Extra baseball continued when Dellin Betances made his appearance in the 11th, adding another strikeout to the total. (The Warriors Three out of order, but still incredibly effective.)

And on into the 12th inning, the game still tied. New reliever Anthony Swarzak sent in to keep the momentum going, except it didn’t. He gave up a lead-off double. And those in the stands in navy sat down as the scattering of orange wildly cheered. A 1-out single scored that runner to break the tie and give the Giants a slight edge. (The single was hit by the same guy who hit the homer earlier in the game, by the way.) A pop-out later, the Yankees called on Richard Bleier to finish the inning, which he did rather quickly.

So the Yankees turned their sights on offense in the bottom of the 12th. But the Giants’ closer today shut the Yankees down in order, in an efficient 12 pitches. Game over.

Final score: 2-1 Giants, in 12 innings.

The Yankee pitchers threw a rather impressive 13 total strikeouts today, but the Giants nearly matched them at 12. Actually, today’s game felt like a back-and-forth of equally matched teams. See, this is where standings and statistics don’t line up. You have one of the better teams in baseball (Giants) versus the 4th place AL East team (Yankees), and yet, they play like the old time days when the Giants were still in New York and they were intense rivals.

Trade rumors alert: Okay, I know I don’t do much as far as rumors go, but this one has been rather persistent. The rumor is that the Yankees have been looking to trade Aroldis Chapman and/or Andrew Miller. Chapman is set to be a free agent come this off-season, and Miller is seen as the “weaker” of the Three because he doesn’t hit 100mph on his fastball. (You can imagine my scoffing and arguments there if you’d like, and you’d be right.) But now, it’s looking like the rumors have settled on the fact that Chapman might be the lone trade. Again, still rumors, so whatever.

Tomorrow is Hall of Fame Induction Day at Cooperstown. The ceremony will be broadcast live on MLB Network beginning at 11 am. The Class of 2016 inductees are Mike Piazza (Mets) and Ken Griffey Jr. (Mariners), both well-deserved honors for a couple of great ball players.

Go Yankees!

One month until it all starts again

Yes, there’s just 31 days (February 19) until pitchers and catchers report in for Spring Training at the Tampa minor league complex. The rest of the squad reports less than a week later on February 25, and Opening Day is March 2 (against Detroit). Single and packaged multi-game tickets are available if you’ll be in the Sunshine State in March.

While the Yankees have certainly not made a splash this off-season, they haven’t exactly been idle either. Following last year’s run for the postseason, the Yankees’ regrouping included retooling its roster to find a better mix of its current and needed strengths, like adding another arm to the end of their bullpen. At the end of the year, the Yankees traded for power-closer Aldrois Chapman. The trade with the Reds sent minor league prospects Caleb Cotham, Rookie Davis, Eric Jagielo, and Tony Renda to Cincinnati; Cotham had some MLB time this year out of the bullpen, but mostly bounced around the farm system. The Yankees seem to have a plethora of amazing talent in their farm system, which essentially becomes trade bait for teams that, well, don’t. In exchange, the Yankees can find themselves with a good active player for the roster now, rather than wait for the talent to develop a few seasons down the road.

Truth be told, the Yankees adding Chapman (who is known for his nasty triple digit strikes) to the Betances-Miller back-end of the bullpen made every other team nearly cringe. Betances and Miller are already so respected by so many in the league that adding another ridiculously talented closer to the mix made the Yankees appear to be unstoppable. I don’t know many Yankee fans (or executives) that mind that train of thought. Girardi also made it known that he expects Chapman to be their closer and will go into Spring with that in mind.

The Yankees also made some minor additions to their extended roster, but with all the wheeling and dealing still in the works, it seems like the farm system is in a constant state of flux with just a month to go before the formal invite goes out to Spring Training invitees.

Also part of the “wheeling and dealing” phase of the off-season is the arbitration part of the contracts of current players. Currently, they avoided arbitration (or came to terms with) Michael Pineda and Dustin Ackley, while sending Chapman, Nathan Eovaldi, Ivan Nova, and Didi Gregorius to the next level. Pineda and Ackley reached deals with the Yankees before the deadline this Friday. Negotiations continued this weekend, and Gregorius is the first to come to terms as of this afternoon.

Essentially, this business part of the player’s contract is to reach a deal for the final year of their contract — the player (via his agent) puts one number down and the GM (or his staff) put another number down and they negotiate to get to an agreement for that year to play for the team. This means that the Yankees are still in negotiations with Eovaldi, Nova, and Chapman, and should they come to terms before the arbitration meeting scheduled in February, the arbitration (a meeting where an arbitrator, a legal mediator, decides what the player will be paid) will be cancelled and the season moves on.

The Yankees lost former pitcher Luis Arroyo last week. Arroyo was a Yankee 1960-1963 and part of the famed 1961 team, helping them win the Series that year. After retiring, Arroyo served as a scout for the Yankees and was a popular fixture every Old Timers’ Day. He passed away last Wednesday after a battle with cancer at his home in Puerto Rico. He was 88.

And in other news, no Yankee alumni are headed to Cooperstown this July. The BBWAA voted earlier this month to formally elect two Yankee rivals into the Hall of Fame. Of the 440 ballots cast, 437 voted (99.3%) to elect Ken Griffey Jr. and 365 (83%) for Mike Piazza. After a really stellar career mostly with the Mariners, Griffey (or “Junior”, as he was affectionately known) set the record for most votes into the Hall in his first year up for eligibility. Piazza, a 3rd year candidate, spent most of his career with the Mets.

Candidates must earn at least 75% of the votes to be elected to the hall, which meant that other candidates up for the Hall missed the boat — including Bagwell, Raines, Hoffman, Schilling, Clemens, Bonds, E. Martinez, Mussina, McGriff, McGwire, Sheffield, and Sosa. Once a candidate has been through a decade of eligibility or receives less than 5% of the votes, he is removed from the ballot. Honestly, if I could vote for the Hall, Griffey and Piazza would definitely have been on my ballot. They deserve the honor and recognition for their amazing on-field talent and contributions to the sport of baseball.

Let us remember this day of people who stand for equality and justice and are willing to fight for it even to this day with the grace and dignity reflective of the people they represent. Use today to remember, but use today as your own call to action to give voice to those who aren’t heard.

“A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.” (Jackie Robinson)

Go Yankees!