Derek Jeter: Publisher

Yes, Derek Jeter is adding yet another title to his continuously expanding empire. Today, he announced a partnership with established New York publishers Simon & Schuster to start his own niche publishing press aptly dubbed “Jeter Publishing”. Jeter Publishing is to predominantly publish nonfiction books for adults, children’s picture books middle-grade fiction and books for young children who are just learning to read, with plans for expansion to other media forms someday in the future. One of the first titles planned is a kids’ guide to baseball that can be updated annually and allow for a more personalized look into the sport. Jeter himself wants to be hands-on in the approach to this new venture, lending his name and stamp of approval only to those he deems worth of his own personal standard of excellence. (The New York Times article on the announcement can be read here.)

The MVP awards were also announced today. The Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera won his second consecutive AL MVP Award, and the Pirates’ Andrew McCutchen took his first NL MVP Award home tonight. While I don’t think anyone was surprised by the results, it should be noted that the Yankees’ only candidate, Robinson Cano, came in 5th place to Cabrera. Congratulations to both players on their well-deserved awards.

Past Yankee MVP award winners: Lou Gehrig (1936), Joe DiMaggio (1939, 1941, 1947), Joe Gordon (1942), Spud Chandler (1943), Phil Rizzuto (1950), Yogi Berra (1951, 1954, 1955), Mickey Mantle (1956, 1957, 1962), Roger Maris (1960, 1961), Elston Howard (1963), Thurman Munson (1976), Don Mattingly (1985), and Alex Rodriguez (2005, 2007). Rodriguez also won the award in 2003 with the Rangers, and Ichiro Suzuki won the award in 2001 with the Mariners. It should be noted that the Yankees in total have 22 MVP awards, the highest in the entire league. (Coming in 2nd is the Cardinals with 17, thanks in large part to 3-time winners Musial and Pujols.) Can’t wait to see a Yankee up there again. Maybe next year, fellas?

Also, like many of you, we’ve been praying for the people in the Philippines devastated by Typhoon Haiyan recently. Major League Baseball is joining in the relief effort with UNICEF and the Red Cross and donating $200,000. MLB is encouraging all fans of the sport to do their part to partner with one of these or any of the legitimate relief organizations on the ground in the Philippines. The situation is overwhelming and the people are desperate for basic necessities like clean water and food. Relief efforts have been hampered by further storms in the area and even an earthquake, so every little bit counts. (USAToday posted a great collection of reliable charities and how you can help and donate.)

Three very different stories on a very different Thursday. But then again, when is the off-season ever normal?

Go Yankees!

It’s always the small stuff…

The awards continue for the non-Yankee world. The Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw and Tigers’ Max Scherzer were awarded with the coveted Cy Young Awards. The Cy Young Award, named for the legendary Hall-of-Fame pitcher, is awarded every year, voted on by the BBWAA (sportswriters) to the best pitchers in the NL and AL. Past Yankee winners include: Bob Turley (1958), Whitey Ford (1961), Sparky Lyle (1977), Ron Guidry (1978), and Roger Clemens (2001 — 1 of his 7 awards, current record holder). CC Sabathia also won the award in 2004 but while he was with Indians. And while I always want to see a Yankee win the award, this year, I have to say these other players certainly deserve the recognition.

And speaking of awards, there is another awards that the public actually can help vote on — the GIBBYs (the Greatness in Baseball Yearly Awards). There are plenty of Yankees to vote for — Robinson Cano (Hitter), Mariano Rivera (Closer), Mariano Rivera (Comeback Player), David Robertson (Set-up Man), the Triple Play (Play), Ichiro’s 4000th Hit (Moment), Rivera’s All-Star Game (Moment), Rivera’s Long Goodbye (Storyline), Alfonso Soriano’s multiple home run game (Hitting Performance), Thunder in the Bronx (Oddity), and Rivera’s return to Kansas City (Cut 4 Topic). So get on the site and vote and vote often. I know I’ve voted more than my share already.

Actually, it was nice to take some time to rewatch those games discussed above to remember some of the really great moments of 2013. When I think back to the moments I spent in a baseball stadium this year, the moments (outside of the really big ones like Rivera’s last game or Ichiro’s 4000th hit or one of many Jeter-returns) that I remember and will cherish about this year are the little things. Like on Hideki Matsui Day, the entire stadium was so electric already from the pre-game ceremonies and just jumped to a ridiculous level on that first pitch home run from Jeter on his major return for 2013. I think of Gabe’s 90th birthday party where all of his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren showed up to honor this World War II veteran on his milestone birthday. I think of the resiliency of Cano returning to the overzealous Royals’ fans and proving them right (“they only boo you if you’re good”) by leading the Yankees to a wonderful weekend sweep. And so many moments from Spring Training, from the guys horsing around on the sidelines to watching children jump for joy getting a ball from their favorite player to getting to know the vendors and security people so well you know their children’s names.

But I suppose those are the moments you can’t award because the moments you hold nearest your heart can never be given tangible credit for the impact they make on your life. Those moments are what makes a baseball game the best game on the planet — the stuff you that isn’t tangible in the first place. But that’s what you tell your kids about. I think of the way Billy Crystal describes the Yankees from when he was a kid, watching the greats like Mantle and Maris duke it out in ’61 and then put into great detail in his movie *61. He doesn’t just talk about the box score or what happened. He describes the sights, the smells, the atmosphere, the little things that make up a day at the park.

Speaking of Crystal’s movie impact, one of my favorite scenes in all of baseball movie history is from the recent family movie Parental Guidance. Crystal’s character is telling his grandson about a great event in baseball history (“The Shot Heard ‘Round The World”) and plays it on the iPod for him. But first, he has his grandson close his eyes and imagine the whole scene, the sights, the sounds, the smells, putting himself in the scene as if he could go back in time 60-odd years and experience it himself — something he also allows the audience to do, perhaps for the first time ever.

So I guess the moral of all this is to take a moment to enjoy the little things that make up a game. In the mean time, what’s your favorite moment from the 2013 season — not the big ones but the tiny things most people won’t ever see? All this is just making me really excited for the 2014 season because you never know what can happen at a ballpark.

Go Yankees!

3 up, 3 down

First of all, I hope everyone had a wonderful Veteran’s Day, honoring those who have served and are currently serving in the military. It is an honor for those of us civilians to be able to show our appreciation to those who risk their lives every day and fought for our country in all the different aspects of the military. And personally, a huge thank you to my friends and family in the service, both active and retired. May we be forever grateful for your sacrifice.

Today, all three qualifying offers have been turned down. Last week, qualifying offers were made to Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, and Hiroki Kuroda, and today all three turned them down. Which means that all three are free agents as of today. All three are also at the top of Free Agency class in their rankings, so wherever they sign for 2014, it will be for a nice deal.

According to most reports, the Yankees are actively pursuing a deal with Cano, though he is entertaining other offers. This is pretty common to get an estimated value of what the league thinks of a player before making the final decision. Granderson is being pursued actively by other teams including the Mets, both Chicago teams (Cubs and White Sox), and the Phillies. Most people assume Granderson is gone at this point. And Kuroda is a giant question mark to just about everyone.

A lot of this is of course basic assumption (which I’m not a fan of), but until there is a definite deal in place, anything’s possible. Should any or all of the three get picked up by another team in the off-season, the Yankees will get an extra draft pick for each one. If they become Yankees again, return to Japan (a serious option for Kuroda), or decide to retire (really only a viable option for Kuroda), the Yankees do not get an extra draft pick.

In the mean time, the GMs, Assistant GMs, and owners have all convened in Orlando for the Winter Meetings. Flanked by a horde of reporters and a sprinkling of major player agents, the next few days will be packed with meetings of all sorts, setting the stage for what is hopefully a very different 2014 season. The Winter Meetings are always early in the off-season, so there’s not a lot of options immediately. Instead, they turn into networking and setting the stage for trades and other pre-season (and often during the season) deals to be made, seemingly at the last minute.

Last year, there wasn’t much for the Yankees to accomplish due to the limits of free agents and a slew of players on the DL. Instead, most of the holes were plugged closer to and during Spring Training. And now, this year, with giant question marks on major players like Rodriguez, Cano, and Kuroda, there is a bit of a holding pattern until some results are in. I mean, there are holes to be filled in the bullpen and back-up fielding and offense, some of which can be initiated this week in Orlando.

And in other Florida-related news, the Rays’ OF Wil Myers and the Marlins’ P Jose Fernandez were awarded with the awards for AL and NL Rookie of the Year, respectively. Having grown up in Florida before and during the development of both teams into the MLB, it’s rather nice to have a both Florida teams well represented and recognized, especially if they couldn’t be Yankees. Honestly, I happen to think both awards were well-deserved. Congrats to both of them! In a few years, when you hit free agency, there might be a pinstriped uniform in your future, and that’s always a wise option.

Go Yankees!

Awards vs. fans

Robinson Cano won his 4th consecutive Silver Slugger (5th of his career) for being the best offensive 2nd baseman in the AL, at least according to the voters on the awards committee, sponsored by Louisville Slugger. Well deserved once again, this year batting .314, with 27 home runs and 107 RBIs. Honestly, the competition at 2nd in the AL is really down to just a couple of guys, and let’s be honest when it’s not Cano, it’s usually the Red Sox’s Pedroia. Since Pedroia took home the Gold Glove last week, perhaps it’s only fair that Cano took this one. Actually, it kind of lends itself to the kind of 2nd basemen they are; perhaps together they are more like Rogers Hornsby, Eddie Collins, or even Jackie Robinson.

Again, I’m about half-and-half on the results of these awards. It’s always subjective at the end of the day, as the results aren’t always fully in line with what statistics say is the best. Some people consider that a little “old-school”, and maybe it is. But there are things that the statistics can’t capture, the intangibles — the heart, the integrity, the dynamics of the player himself. Sure, the statistics are great to show the accomplishments as a whole, but the fans don’t show up for the numbers they flash on the screen. No, they show up for the player they love and can root for, the guy they consider a great guy on and off the field, the lasting and continuing legacy of a team. And if his numbers are really great, it’s icing on the cake, part of conversations about his possible trip to Cooperstown someday.

One of these days, I’m going to have to do an editorial of sorts (or maybe a series) about the evolution of baseball from the Strike of 1994 to now because I think so many things have been applied to baseball that just aren’t true. Part of building a fan base is knowing your fan base. Like a year ago, most of the Yankee hometown fan base was still in recovery from Sandy. How did the club respond? By holding clothing and food drives and aiding physically and financially in the Red Cross and local recovery effort. When tragedy struck again in December in Newtown, the Yankees again reached out to their community helping out wherever they could, sponsoring a Newtown Day at the stadium, and continuing to support their community.

Maybe that’s why these awards never feel just right (though sometimes it’s hard to complain). The fans aren’t voting for their favorite player because instead the committee is “unbiased” former players or sportswriters or executives or someone else. And maybe a fan vote wouldn’t be “fair”, but rather popularity-based (as we get with the All-Star Game), but I think the fans feel a little gyped with these post-season awards.

Instead, maybe the fans need to remember that they get to speak with their dollars and buy season tickets or some ticket package. Make plans now to attend as many games as possible to use your voice to vote for your favorite club. But like I always say, don’t just go to a professional game (that can be hefty on your wallet), attend minor league games, little league games, workplace softball tournaments, whatever. There’s nothing like a baseball game. So if you’re a fan, vote with your dollars to bring baseball back to the forefront of American pastimes again.

And now, I’m craving a crappy hot dog, cheap beer, and cold bleacher seats while cheering on my team. But that will have to wait a few months. March will be here before we know it.

Go Yankees!

The free agency dance begins

I realize that the Yankees had a bit of a deadline with their potential free agents, but Monday seems to have been heavily laden with news for its public. Well, not really complete news, more like the beginning of news.

When looking at potential free agents coming off their roster, a club can make “qualifying offers” to agents they don’t want to let go. It’s usually seen as a sign that says “we’re still interested in you and retaining you even if we’re only offering a year contract to you”. Most players don’t take it and opt to go for bigger, longer contracts (even if it’s with the same club), and by doing so, they actually gift the club with a prime draft pick for the next draft (next July). Last year, Nick Swisher and Rafael Soriano were offered qualifying offers, both opted free agency, and both were signed pretty quickly elsewhere (Cleveland and Washington, respectively).

This year, they made offers to Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, and Hiroki Kuroda. There is a lot of speculation already as to what they’re each going to do, and I’ve been doing my own private speculating. But since I don’t speculate here, you’ll know if I’m right after the player deadline of November 11 to respond to the offer — they will either take it and sign for a year with the Yankees or refuse it and try for a better offer elsewhere. And honestly, I think we’ll be looking at three very different results for these guys.

Now, there were some people who didn’t get qualifying offers from the Yankees — Brendan Ryan, Kevin Youkilis, Mark Reynolds, Travis Hafner, Lyle Overbay, Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, and Boone Logan. This means that all of these guys are now officially free agents, and their agents are probably busy exploring all options available to their clients. It will be interesting to see where everyone lands, and honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Yankees picked up a couple of these guys at least for a year or two.

Almost on the other spectrum of things, the National Baseball Hall of Fame has released its latest ballot and is to be voted on next month by the Veterans’ Committee. There are 12 men on that list that have had a major impact on baseball history, including Joe Torre, Billy Martin, and George Steinbrenner. I think in all Yankee fans’ minds all three should get at least the required 75% votes to walk into Cooperstown next year. The annual players ballot will be released later this month and will include the five players who didn’t make the it last year but had enough vote to carry over for this coming year and a whole slew of really amazing newcomers including former Yankees pitcher Mike Mussina.

Like I said, it’s really just a “beginning of news” kind of day. At first, it sounds like there’s news, but really it’s just  something that could develop into news someday soon. But when I think about it, baseball is always an evolving story. Even when a team wins the World Series, they have to spend the off-season rebuilding and focusing on developing their dynasty. The 2012 Giants, for example, barely made any changes last off-season and ended up holding up the bottom of the NL West in 2013; they figured “why mess with success?” and it backfired big time on them. So, now they’re working on figuring out what went wrong with their 2013 formula and what went right with 2012 and then how they can make 2014 work better for them.

And (not that I ever want to glorify the Yankees’ arch-rivals) then you have the Red Sox who were easily the worst team in 2012, fired their manager, shuffled their roster, picked up some prime guys from all over free agency, and somehow powered their way to the top of the AL and became World Series Champions just a few weeks ago. But now, the Red Sox are going to spend their entire 2014 season defending their title. This is actually good news for the Yankees because unlike almost every other team in the league only the Yankees know what it’s like to establish and maintain a dynasty. Is anyone else hoping 2014 starts a new dynasty?

Go Yankees!

Golden Forgetfulness & Subjectivity

Every year, following the regular season, Rawlings gives an award for the best player at every position in each league called the Gold Glove. Past Yankee winners include Mickey Mantle, Elston Howard, Dave Winfield, Ron Guidry, Mike Mussina, Don Mattingly, Bernie Williams, Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, and Robinson Cano. Last year, Teixeira and Cano both won the award for their outstanding play during the 2012 season.

This year, they announced the finalists, and the only Yankees player to make the list is Robinson Cano. While technically supposed to be based entirely on defensive skills of the player, most people agree that a good offensive show certainly has a lot to do with bringing the finalists to mind. This would definitely explain the reason why Brett Gardner is missing off the list, as agreed upon by multiple sources. Gardner is easily one of the best center fielder in the entire league, but his offensive show isn’t anywhere near the flash of the players listed on the finalists list.

Arguments have been then made as to what the sole winner is actually assessed on — defense, overall playing ability, flash and flair, or trick plays. Personally, I’ve always been under the impression that it should be one or the other, but in many years, it’s seemed a little mixed up as to the actual definitive qualities of each winner. Some are better at defense, some are more well-rounded, some are better at offense, and some just are pretty well-known. There have been times when certain Yankees have won the award, but really had a pretty terrible season overall. And some players have never been nominated although are better overall players than the winners (and not just according to my own opinion but some very reliable sports people too).

I think it’s nice when a Yankee gets recognized with one of these annual awards, but because of the certain amount of subjectivity in their distribution, it’s just “nice” and not something of more significance. Maybe that’s why players themselves put more emphasis on actual earned wins and titles and that World Series ring — because for all the flashy trophies you can acquire, what’s going to get you to Cooperstown are those rings. For example, Yogi Berra never won a Golden Glove or Silver Slugger or other fairly new achievement award, but he’s got a ring for every finger and a personality that would light up New Jersey for a year and his introduction are always “Hall of Famer, 10-time World Series Champion (plus 3 as a manager/coach), 15-time All-Star Yogi Berra, oh and he won a bunch of other titles and awards and he has a museum.” The goal is the win of the game and the ultimate prize (the commissioner’s trophy), not the win of the smaller unearned awards.

This year, Cano is once again up against two other well-known, well-established, and excellent players — the Red Sox’s Dustin Pedroia and the Rays’ Ben Zobrist. The winners will be announced Tuesday (the next off day, if needed, or perhaps first day of the off-season). Depending on the final result will say a lot on how the voters voted and what their criteria is for the award.

Go Yankees!

The 109th World Series — the winner will being red

We have another pair of birthdays today: A happy 32nd birthday to Robinson Cano and a happy 40th birthday to Ichiro Suzuki!

Tomorrow is the first day of the 109th World Series. And the winner will be wearing red. The Red Sox and the Cardinals start their face off in Boston, thanks to a really fantastic AL win at the All-Star Game this year. Perhaps it is only fitting that it is Boston who hosted the first World Series in 1903 (as the Boston Americans). If you think the games are too long or too many postseason games today, the Americans beat the Pirates in 8 games in a best-of-9 series (1903, 1919, 1920, and 1921 were the only years the Series were not a best-of-7 series).

And if you’re doing math, you may be confused as to why it’s the 109th when the first one was 110 years ago. (Technically, it should be the 111th because 1903 was the 1st.) But there were two skipped series.

In 1904, they skipped the series, which would have been played by the Boston Americans and the New York Giants, but the Giants’ owner and manager had some issues with being forced to play against the “inferior American League” and considered the National League to be the only legitimate league in baseball. Well, actually, the biggest issue was that the newly christened Yankees (the Giants’ cross-town rivals) were getting really good, and the Giants were afraid of being beaten by them publicly by this new upstart team. (See, the anti-Yankee stuff started long before the Red Sox were anybody!) And while there was an agreement to hold a World Series in 1904, there was no legally binding agreement with set rules and policies (regarding money, host cities, operations, etc.), so they backed out and cancelled it. There was such an uproar with the fans that they set those rules and policies in place for every subsequent World Series.

Except 90 years later, when the season was cut short due to a players’ strike. The Series was played through World Wars and the 1919 Black Sox scandal and the 1989 earthquake. But in 1994, disputes between the players and the team owners led to the infamous players’ strike, which at the time seemed like the second biggest “black eye” to Major League Baseball. (The first being the Black Sox scandal.) It was essentially a labor strike, where the players were protesting unfair labor practices and walked off the field on August 12 of that year. A month later, the new baseball commissioner Bud Selig cancelled the World Series that year, thus forfeiting what would probably have been a Yankees-Expos World Series based on their really great records at that point. The strike was later settled after a congressional hearing and a US District Court helmed by future Supreme Court Justice (and lifelong Yankee fan) Sonia Sotomayor issued an injunction and upheld the appeals court that ruled against the owners and for the players’ union. It took awhile before the fans loved baseball again, and while it temporarily helped the game, the steroid era blasted its way through the full cycle from secret to open love to mistrust to outright disdain to illegal irreparable damage (something many people equate with the biggest black eye on MLB ever).

Now, the Yankees are, of course, the team with the most World Series appearances and wins, having won 27 of their 40 appearances. And it’s the Cardinals who are 2nd on that list with 11 wins of their 19 appearances (their last win was 2011). The Athletics have 9 wins of 14 appearances, last year’s champions the Giants have 7 of 19, and then the Red Sox come in 5th with 7 wins for their 11 appearances (last winning in 2007).

At both recent ALCS and NLCS award ceremonies, comments were made about how many wins and appearances both teams have made in the last 10 years — Cardinals with 2 wins in 3 appearances (2006, 2011, and 2004) and the Red Sox with 2 wins in 2 appearances (2004, 2007). In fact, the last time they faced off was that infamous “Reverse the Curse” year for Boston in 2004, when the Red Sox swept through the Cardinals for their first win in 86 years. This is not the 2004 Red Sox, and no one thinks relying on the old curse stuff is going to work any more for them; the sympathy is done; the playing field is level; regular rivalries remain. And the Cardinals got rid of their 2000-era power-hitter Pujols to the Angels after their last Series, but fans aren’t really missing him in light of their really tight pitching staff.

They meet for the first of a best-of-7 series for the 109th World Series Championship tomorrow. The winner will be wearing red. But next year, the winner will (hopefully) be wearing navy pinstripes emblazoned with “New York” on their chest.

Go Yankees!