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 143: NYY vs. SEA — Mariners stay afloat but sink series

The Yankees say “farewell” to the West Coast with a disappointing end to their series in Seattle this afternoon, despite the team doing its best to attempt a solid sweep of the Mariners on their home turf.

CC Sabathia got the start and had a decent outing today, throwing 84 pitches in 5 innings, giving up 7 hits, a walk, and 2 runs, and striking out 4 batters. In the 1st, with 2 outs, he gave up 2 singles to get runners on base, and then 2 more singles to score both runners to get the Mariners on the board.

Chad Green came on for 2 solid innings to continue Sabathia’s good start, but Dellin Betances had a minor blip in his 8th inning that made all the difference. He gave up a lead-off walk that stole 2nd, moved to 3rd on a sacrifice bunt, and then scored on a fielder’s choice.

The Yankees actually got on the board first in the top of the 1st. Stanton hit a nice 1-out double and then scored on Miguel Andujar’s double. After the Mariners took the lead in the bottom of the inning, the Yankees came back in the 4th to tie up the game. First, they loaded up the bases with singles to Walker, Voit, and Torres. Then 2 outs later, Andrew McCutchen worked a walk to score Walker.

But after the Mariners re-took the lead in the 8th, the Yankees had a frustrating 9th inning, including the very rare ejection of Brett Gardner. Gardner had issue with the strike zone, something he was actually right about, by the way. But Gardner’s last ejection was back in 2014, and he’s a pretty even-keel guy.

Final score: 3-2 Mariners, Yankees win the series 2-1

Next up: The Yankees are on their way to Minnesota for a 3-game series against the Twins. After a travel day on Thursday, they will head back to the Bronx for their final home stand, 3 series against division rivals, before a final road trip against more division rivals to wrap up the season.

Injury update: Unfortunately, the lingering wrist injury of Aaron Judge has been causing some recent pain to return. His recent swings in the batting cages have caused some increased pain, something you don’t really want to deal with when you’re supposed to be coming back from an injury. That said, it means that his return time has been less assured. It also means that he may miss the rest of this season. Only time will tell over these next few weeks.

Go Yankees!

Game 142: NYY vs. SEA — Yankee homers edge out victory

It’s about the time of the season when the teams really reveal who they are, who they’ve really been the whole season. It’s the time when teams are solidly eliminated from the postseason and focus on just finishing on an upswing. It’s the time when teams still in competition for the postseason are in a final push to ensure their spot for October baseball. And many players start vying for spots both on postseason teams but also on next season’s rosters.

Lance Lynn got his shot to try to show the Yankees who he can be to them, and tonight, in the middle game of this weekend series in Seattle, he had a pretty good outing. He threw just 76 pitches through 6 innings, giving up just 3 hits and 2 runs, striking out just 2 Mariners’ batters.

A lead-off solo homer off his first pitch in the 3rd was his first allowed run. But he held the home team off for much of the game. The other one squeaked by in the 5th. With 1 out and a runner at 1st, a grounder moved that runner to 2nd before he raced home on an RBI single.

But once he handed the game off to the bullpen, Lynn was ensured the win. Britton and Robertson each took an inning and kept the Mariners at bay. (By the way, they are the only MLB team where this phrase is an actual pun.) Dellin Betances earned his save the hard way, giving up a walk and single in the 9th to threaten the Yankees’ lead, but Betances’ strikeouts stunned the Mariners and sealed the deal.

The Yankees’ batters faced off against the Mariners’ former ace who used to stun opposing teams, but he was having an off-night against the visiting Yankees tonight. Andrew McCutchen, clearly proving how much he loves SafeCo Field, hit a lead-off home run in the 1st inning off that ace starter. That was also McCutchen’s 2nd run in as many days. Perhaps, he should misplace his luggage more often?

After the M’s tied up the game, the Yankees found their next opportunity in the 5th. Brett Gardner led-off by working a walk and then stole 2nd. McCutchen followed him by also working a walk. And that would be the end of the Mariners’ starter’s night. But his reliever didn’t help things. A passed ball moved the runners up to scoring position. And Giancarlo Stanton’s sacrifice fly easily scored Gardner to give the Yankees back the lead.

Then after the M’s tied up the game again, the Yankees looked to an unexpected source to put them back on top. Austin Romine hit his 10th homer of the season, a 1-out solo home run in the 7th inning. Romine becomes the 10th Yankee to his 10 or more home runs this season. This also moves the Yankees up to 232 collective homers this season, far in 1st over all other MLB teams and just 32 short of the record (by the 1997 Mariners, coincidentally).

But for an insurance run, the Yankees pieced it together in the 9th inning. Andujar led-off the inning by being hit by a pitch and pinch-run by Wade. (He’s alright, by the way, a little shaken up and sore, but a speedy substitution to get the run was a good idea in the end.) Hechavarria’s single moved Wade to 3rd so that he could score on Gleyber Torres’ sacrifice fly, the Yankees’ 51st sac fly this season (for all you trivia nerds).

Final score: 4-2 Yankees

In an interesting and random bit of trivia, the Yankees on quite the streak. Based on the fact that there’s only 20 games left of the season, they can officially say that they have 26 straight years of winning seasons. That means this particular streak is older than Andujar, Holder, Loaisiga, Severino, Tarpley, Torres, and Wade, and as old as Bird, Cessa, Cole, Judge, Sanchez, and Torreyes. In other words, for all these current Yankees, the Yankees have always been a winning team. And that is rather impressive.

Go Yankees!

Game 141: NYY vs. SEA — #TanakaTime Shutout

Clearly something happened in the Yankees’ journey to the Emerald City. They might not have met the Wizard, they might have even lost their luggage, but they found their heart.

Masahiro Tanaka was just on point in tonight’s opener in this weekend series in Seattle. He shut out the home team with 102 pitches in 8 innings, allowing just 3 hits, and getting 10 impressive strikeouts. David Robertson followed Tanaka’s start with a great 9th inning, adding a strikeout of his own to the running tally tonight.

The Yankee batters had a bit of fun in first third of the game, setting the results of the game with a couple of good hits. In the 2nd, with 2 outs, Voit singled and then scored as part of Gleyber Torres’ 2-run home run, his 23rd homer of the season. Then Gardner led-off the 3rd with a single and scored on Andrew McCutchen’s 2-run home run to secure the Yankees’ win.

The Yankees would only get a couple more hits tonight, so the game became more about maintaining that early lead, something Tanaka (and then Robertson) and the Yankee defense did rather well.

Final score: 4-0 Yankees

Roster moves/injury updates: The Yankees activated Didi Gregorius off the disabled list. Gregorius, recovering from a badly bruised heel last month, is taking it slow on the return. Thanks to new additions and the recent September call-ups, there’s no real rush to push the recently recovered player in the game just yet. But he’s there if they need him off the bench, as he did tonight for the latter half of the game.

And Aaron Judge is taking more swings and getting back into regular exercises. Still hitting off a tee, he’s also working on short-distance tosses for some light batting practice. And with no prominent pain as a result of the effort, things are looking good for his return some time soon. Still no definite return date yet, but again, the new additions to the roster are helping bridge the gap until he’s ready for some major league swings.

Finally, we wish Sonny and Jessica Gray and their family a huge congratulations. They recently welcomed their son Declan to the family. Gray missed the Oakland series on paternity leave but is back with the team now. Another Yankee, another “Baby Pickles”.

Go Yankees!

Game 72: SEA vs. NYY — 1st inning Bombers help sweep

The Yankees tabbed their ace Luis Severino to start this afternoon’s finale against the Mariners (and the home stand). And Severino continued his Cy Young candidacy this year earning his 11th win and yet still throwing 107 pitches into the 6th inning, giving up 8 hits, a walk, and 3 runs, and striking out just 5 batters.

In the 2nd, a lead-off walk scored on a 2-run home run to get Seattle on the board. Later, in the 6th, with 2 runners on base with singles and 2 outs, another single scored the Mariners’ final run. That would be the end of Severino’s afternoon, and Robertson closed out that inning quickly before easing his way through the 7th. Robertson was followed with solid innings by Betances and Chapman, who earned his 22nd save of the season.

Meanwhile, the Yankees actually earned their win entirely in the 1st inning and spent the rest of the game fending off the Mariners. Clint Frazier led-off the bottom of the 1st with a single and then scored quickly on Aaron Judge’s 19th homer of the season, a 2-run shot into the right field seats. Two outs later, a bit of deja vu as Torres singled and then scored on Miguel Andujar’s 2-run home run.

Final score: 4-3 Yankees, Yankees sweep series 3-0

Injury update/roster moves: the Yankees placed reliever AJ Cole on the 10-day Disabled List due to a neck strain or possible pinched nerve. In his place, the Yankees shortened the rehab of Luis Cessa, scheduled to pitch today in Trenton, but he’s been strong since his return to baseball after his oblique strain injury back in April.

Next up: the Yankees are on their way south for a weekend series in Tampa Bay against the Rays before heading up to face the Phillies. Then, they’re back in the Bronx to host the Red Sox and Braves for the final home stand before the All-Star Break, coming on the heels of a long road trip.

And speaking of the All-Star Game, consider this your regular reminder to get your votes in today for your favorite players (*hint: Yankees*). You can vote up to 5 times every 24 hours, up to 35 total times, until July 5 at 11:59 pm EST. Fans can cast votes for players they want to see start the All-Star Game next month (July 17) in Washington, D.C.

Once voting closes, league coaching teams will announce their selections for bench players, pitchers, and relievers to fill out their rosters, plus 5 nominees for the final spot that fans will get a chance to vote again. During the All-Star Game, fans can also vote for their choice for the MVP of the game. This whole fan voting process is to further engage fans in the Midsummer Classic, and to allow “something to matter” now that home field advantage isn’t something that is earned at this game but rather a result of best record.

And if you’re wondering about that Home Run Derby, you might have heard that Judge isn’t interested in defending his title as reigning Home Run Derby Champion. And honestly, Judge is a bit behind the AL leaders anyway — Trout (Angels) has 23, Martinez (Red Sox) and Ramirez (Indians) are tied with 22, Davis (Athletics) has 20, and then Judge is tied with Betts (Red Sox) with 19 runs. If you’re wondering, Stanton is tied with 3 other players with 18 homers.

But if you think that’s a tight race, the NL leader Harper (Nationals) has 19 runs, but then 4 players at tied with 16, 4 players with 15, and 6 players with 14. In other words, there’s very little settled in this special event to be held July 16 as the culmination of All-Star warm-up day.

Go Yankees!

 

Game 71: SEA vs. NYY — Comeback and walk-off, because… Yankees.

After his stellar MLB debut, the Yankees were hoping for a repeat performance from rookie Jonathan Loaisiga. But he had a hard time controlling the Mariners’ offense in tonight’s middle game of this series against the visiting team from Seattle. Loaisiga spent the first 3 innings getting himself into and out of jams.

But in the 4th, he gave up a lead-off walk that scored thanks to a single and a really bad throwing error. After a fielder’s choice, he then gave up a double that moved the runners to scoring position. A strikeout later, Loaisiga’s pitch count was already at 84 in the middle of the 4th inning, giving up 6 hits, 2 walks, and a run (and responsible for those 2 runners on base).

Chasen Shreve came on in relief of the rookie and promptly gave up a single to score both of those runners (charged to Loaisiga’s record). But Shreve continued the struggle in the 5th inning. With 1 out, he put runners in scoring position too with a single and double, that then scored on a sacrifice fly and a single.

After finding his pace again in the 6th, Holder closed out that inning before sailing his way through the 7th and 8th innings to limit the Mariners’ runs. Chapman continued Holder’s momentum with a solid 10-pitch 9th inning, all while waiting for the Yankees to catch up and surpass their visitors.

For the first 5 innings, the strong Yankee batters faced the Mariners’ star ace pitcher, and he limited the Yankees from doing much in their own house. In fact, he held them off until the 5th inning, when the Yankees were already down by 5 runs. Andujar hit a 1-out double, Hicks worked a 2-out walk, and Aaron Judge’s single and a missed catch error scored both runners to get the Yankees on the board.

The Mariners’ initial reliever shut the Yankees down in the 6th before they continued to chip away at the Mariners’ lead. In the 7th, Frazier led-off with a double, moved to 3rd on Judge’s 1-out single, and then scored on Didi Gregorius’ sacrifice fly. Gleyber Torres led-off the 8th with a walk, and then Gary Sanchez hit a great 2-run home run to tie up the game and electrify the Bronx.

After Chapman’s fantastic top of the 9th with the game now tied, the fans were buzzing with anticipation. But a quick 2 outs had extra innings looming. Then Gregorius singled and hope came alive again. Giancarlo Stanton stepped into the batter’s box, and with his mixed offense this season, fans were feeling mixed about whether to hold out enough hope. Stanton hit a 2-run walk-off home run anyway, his 1st walk-off as a Yankee, and the 23rd comeback win for the team.

Final score: 7-5 Yankees

Minor injury news: Brett Gardner has been dealing with a minor injury since this weekend. During the game against the Rays on Saturday, he found that his right knee was sore and inflamed. Because the MRI came back clean, the Yankees have been keeping him on the bench in hopes to avoid putting him on the DL.

Technically, the veteran outfielder could play in any of these games, because Gardner’s leg would have to be practically falling off to stop him from playing, but before it gets that far, they are hoping some rest and care avoids such a necessity. Especially with solid players on the roster (like Frazier, Judge, Hicks, and Stanton, among others).

Finally, the Yankees are mourning the loss of former pitching coach Billy Connors. After a minor career with the Cubs and Mets in the mid-1960s, Connors was hired as pitching coach with the Yankees for 5 seasons (1989-1990, 1994-1995, and 2000), making him a crucial cog in the careers of Dwight Gooden, Orlando Hernandez, Andy Pettitte, and Mariano Rivera. He also served as VP of player personnel at the minor league complex in Tampa (1996-2012), specifically with young pitchers.

Before the game, the Yankees held a moment of silence in his honor. Their released statement states our collective feelings in Yankee Universe: “The Yankees organization mourns the passing of Billy Connors, who was a close and trusted friend of my family for many years. Since joining the Yankees at the conclusion of the 1988 season, Billy contributed to the organization in countless ways over his long career as a pitching coach, executive and advisor. On behalf of the Yankees and the Steinbrenner family, I extend our deepest condolences to Billy’s family, friends and loved ones.”

Go Yankees!

Game 70: SEA vs. NYY — Is it “out-pitching” or “out-hitting” the visitors?

Domingo German may have finally found his footing that made the Yankees originally give him the nod to cover for Montgomery consistently this season. German faced the visiting Mariners in their opener tonight, throwing 96 pitches in his 7 strong innings, giving up just 2 hits and 2 runs (only 1 earned), and striking out 9 Seattle batters.

In the 1st, the lead-off batter doubled, moved to 3rd on a missed catch error (enter: the unearned possibility), and then scored on a force line out at 2nd. And a 1-out solo home run in the 7th doubled the Mariners’ score.

AJ Cole followed German’s solid start with 2 strong innings of his own, keeping the Mariners from adding to their runs and adding 3 more strike outs to the Yankees’ total of 12 tonight. This was in stark comparison to the Mariners’ stats of giving up 11 hits (compared to just 2 to their batters). When one team out-hits the other can, it can also be said they were out-pitched. The Yankees did both.

Down by a run early, the Yankees came back with a 2-out solo home run by Giancarlo Stanton to tie up the game. Then in the 5th, there was a bit of a repeated effort. Bird led-off with a walk and then scored as part of Miguel Andujar’s 2-run home run. Frazier singled and then scored as part of Aaron Hicks’ 2-run home run, that also got wedged into the visitor’s bullpen bench (after it bounced off the back wall). All before an out was recorded that inning, and ensured the Yankees a strong lead in tonight’s game.

In the 7th, Andujar led-off with a single, and then after an out, the Mariners went to their bullpen. Hicks’ single moved Andujar to 3rd before Aaron Judge’s single scored him. And if that wasn’t enough, Gleyber Torres hit his 14th home run, a 1-out solo shot in the 8th inning.

Final score: 7-2 Yankees

The All-Star Game released images of their uniforms the players will wear next month for warm-up day. AL players will wear predominantly blue jerseys featuring the Washington Monument, while NL players’ red jerseys will feature the dome of the Capitol. There’s also some interesting socks and matching caps. Plus, there are special caps for the players to wear at the All-Star Game while they wear their regular team uniforms.

And there’s another update for voting, and it hopefully will spur Yankees fans to kick it up a notch and vote! Gary Sanchez has been bumped from his leading spot by another player and demoted to 2nd place thanks to an extra 60,000 votes by Rays’ fans. Aaron Judge is still in the running for an outfield spot, but still at 3rd place. To be fair, 4th place is a very distant 4th place (about 500,000 votes).

However, the rest of the Yankees are a bit further down on their respective lists because of the popular fan-favorites at each position. Finishing out the outfield, Gardner is currently 7th and Hicks 13th (about 1.2 and 1.3 million votes behind the Boston leader). Behind other popular players in their positions, Stanton, Andujar, and Torres are all 2nd in their categories (by 650,000, 400,000, and 1 million votes, respectively). Oddly, the tightest category is shortstop — Gregorius coming in 4th at just 250,000 votes behind the leader, just 40,000 behind 2nd place.

Alright, Yankee Universe, time to do your stuff, and vote! Let’s ensure Judge, give Sanchez a boost and make those other categories tighter.

Go Yankees!