Archives for posts with tag: baseball

I wrote this piece in 2014 during Derek Jeter’s last season and thought it was worth sharing again this weekend with the Yankees not surprisingly retiring his #2.

 

It’s been twenty long years that seem to have gone by in a wink. Derek Jeter’s career is coming to an end and as proved by Thursday night’s heroics he still has a little magic left. He is not going out at the top of his game or in the midst of another pennant run but 2014 does feel like the right time to walk away. This final season has been a mix of nostalgia, gratitude, harsh reality, speculation, evaluation, criticism, and old-fashioned baseball drama. And now is a good time to remember what we should we remember and what we have been honored to experience with #2 in pinstripes.

Derek Jeter is class. He has spent the last twenty seasons playing for the most storied baseball franchise in the biggest media market and has handled every moment with dignity and resolve. Just imagine how you would handle the pressure of such a task while dealing with the 24-7 news cycle and droves of reporters second guessing your every move. Now marvel at how Derek Jeter has not only played but carried himself. He realized very early that everyone is watching and has been a true ambassador for the Yankees and the game of baseball.

Derek Jeter is humble. In this exploding era of social media where most athletes crave attention like Gollum craves the precious ring, Derek Jeter has shined in the spotlight and done everything in his power to not bathe in it. Derek is the anti-Reggie, always ready to laud his team’s accomplishments and avoid any urge to pat himself on the back. He has taken his share of curtain calls, and even turned a few down, but even when he does step of the dugout to the delight of thousands he acts as if to say, “Not a big deal, just doing my job.”

Derek Jeter is respectful. The past few months has been a never ending barrage of athletes behaving badly. With the retirement of Derek Jeter comes the absence of a special individual who treated the game and his profession as a privilege, not a right. You have never heard Derek Jeter’s name uttered in the same sentence as the following words: drugs, DUI, armed, battery, assault, arrest. There is that slight possibility that Mr. Jeter has Olivia Pope on his payroll but I and many others will always be willing to believe the best having never seen Jeter’s worst, if such a concept exists.

Derek Jeter is hustle. We know the plays and they have been replayed in a continuous loop the last few weeks. Derek Jeter has played his entire career not only with a first-rate skill set but with keen instincts and a burning desire to win. When I think of Derek Jeter I think of the player who is busting his ass to 1B on a routine grounder while down five runs in the eighth inning. That’s Derek Jeter.

Derek Jeter is a Yankee. From day one, Derek Jeter understood the pride, passion, and history that comes with wearing the pinstripes. He has been aware of the expectations and never backed down from a challenge. The Yankees may be seen as the Evil Empire but Derek Jeter has always been the bright beacon of hope and all that can be good about the Yankees and baseball. Tom Verducci said it best when he said, “If you don’t like Derek Jeter, you don’t like baseball.”

In the end, Derek Jeter is not the greatest Yankee of all-time. But he is the greatest Yankee of my lifetime, and that’s all that matters and he will be missed. Thanks, Captain.

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When this past off-season saw the usually big spending Yanks only make waves by re-acquiring Aroldis Chapman and giving Matt Holliday a 1-year flyer, most fans and analysts didn’t know what to think. This was not the Yanks of old. This was not the M.O. of a big-spending team that missed the playoffs for three of the last four seasons. This was definitely keeping with the new plan implemented by Brian Cashman at last year’s trade deadline. The Yankees are getting younger as we watch and the future is now…maybe a year off.

This year’s spring training was an introduction of new names and high double-digit numbers to a fan base desperate for a return to October baseball. And it was a very encouraging introduction with the Yankees playing .700 ball in the Grapefruit League. True, spring training is not a highly accurate predictor of the future, like Nate Silver’s election algorithms, but there was definitely something new and exciting on display.

The biggest surprise was the return of Greg Bird. After a 2015 mini-campaign that had him prepared to displace Mark Teixeira immediately, Bird was sidelined for all of 2016 with shoulder surgery. This spring saw him return with a vengeance, hitting .451 with a team leading 8 HRs. Displaying an ability to hit to all fields against righties and lefties, coupled with solid defense at 1B, Greg Bird may be the answer at 1B, this season and beyond.

Gary Sanchez picked up from where his 2nd place Rookie of the Year campaign left off, hitting .373 with 5 HRs and showing plenty of arm strength from behind the plate. I was a big fan of Brian McCann and sad to see him depart to Houston but Gary Sanchez’s talent at and behind the plate will not be denied and will be on display post haste.

Tyler Wade, Billy McKinney, Ruben Tejada, Clint Frazier, and Gleyber Torres all showed glimpses of future days in the Bronx. Torres in particular may see an early call-up, especially if Chase Headley continues to underwhelm in the 3rd year of his four-year deal. The jettisoning of Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman bore many fruits that the Yankee organization is eager to pluck when fully ripe.

And the addition of 7-time All Star Matt Holliday should easily fill the void left when Carlos Beltran was sent to Texas. Holliday had a banged up 2016 campaign, but as a F/T DH should be plenty healthy to provide much-needed power and veteran leadership.

Starting pitching continues to be the biggest Achilles heel. But considering that an almost identical staff in 2016, minus the recently released Nathan Eovaldi, was good enough for 84 wins anything is possible. The right elbow of Masahiro Tanaka continues to be under more scrutiny than Price Waterhouse’s Oscar night decorum. If Tanaka finally gets to 200 innings this season, there will only be four remaining pitching questions marks. CC Sabathia will most likely end up in the bullpen by June and Michael Pineda has yet to find anything mirroring consistency – both will not be around for 2018. Thankfully, this means plenty of opportunities for Luis Cessa, Chad Green and Bryan Mitchell who have all had success in limited MLB exposure. And Luis Severino continues to be the wild card of them all. Will he return to ROY-esque form from 2015 or only be effective from the bullpen as in 2016? I do hope it’s the former but the latter works just as well.

More than likely, the Yankees will not make the playoffs this season. At best they will be in the run for a Wild Card slot, and anything can happen in that play-in game. I would give this year’s squad about a 15% chance of making it to the divisional round. I expect this year to be a repeat of last year, in the mix but not a true contender. I expect the young talent of Gary Sanchez, Greg Bird, Aaron Judge (who also had an impressive spring) and Luis Severino to gain another year of big league experience in preparation for 2018. 2017 is the new 1995. The future is bright, shining with young talent and hungry veterans prepared to deliver new World Series rings to the Bronx and forcing Joe Girardi to change his uniform number into the 30’s.

The future is bright, Yankee fans, and we may be lucky enough to see Yankee championship history repeat over and over in the next decade….as long as $400 million are not wasted on Bryce Harper. #HeadCase

Tonight I will live blog as David Ortiz takes his last swings against the Yankees. I will do my best to fight through the tears, of joy, as one of the most feared/loathed Yankee killers says a much-anticipated goodbye.

Thankfully both sides still have something to play for as the AL East winning Sawx are competing for home advantage in the playoffs and the Yanks are playing the Sawx – motivation enough.

See you after the 1st inning!

I have to admit, things were getting exciting. After a week that saw the Yanks energized by a 7-game win streak the Bronx Bombers have now crashed back to reality thanks to losing two out of three to the visiting LA Dodgers and dropping three in a row to the rival Sawx with a series sweep possible after tonight’s contest. Leave it the Boston Red Sox to make a statement this week about who the AL East champ should be. Truth be told to, the Yanks were playing above their talent and the Sawx have been nice enough to provide a much needed reality check.

Thursday night’s 7-5 loss which saw the Sawx rally for 5 runs in 9th inning, with four runs charged to “relief ace” Dellin Betances, was a defining moment for both clubs. For the Sawx, it was a reminder of just how intimidating their lineup is and that no lead is insurmountable. For the Yanks, it was another example of going to the bullpen well once too often as well as not being capable of putting opponents away, as best exemplified by the 12 runners left on base. I know that no closer is perfect, not even the great soon to HOFer Mariano Rivera, but if your closer can’t protect a three-run lead in the 9th inning of a September game, your team shouldn’t be playing in October.

On the bright side, this year’s Yankees are still six games over .500 and still capable of another winning season. Not exactly the consolation prize you want, but sometimes you take what you can get. Gary Sanchez continues to carry the team on his back and garner serious AL Rookie of the Year talk with 15 HRs and 29 RBIs in just 40 games played. Masahiro Tanaka is pitching like the ace the Yanks signed in 2014 with a 2.97 ERA as he approaches 200 IP for the season. And the recent signing of Billy Butler has been a much needed shot in the arm with Billy, also known as “Country Breakfast,” going 3 for 7 with a HR and 4 RBIs in his first three games. I do not see him as a long term acquisition but if he wants to use the last two weeks of the season as an audition for the rest of the AL, he can just keep slugging away.

Mathematically the Yanks playoff hopes aren’t over. But as they currently stand at 3.4% I think we can pronounce those hopes dead. It’s been quite the rollercoaster season and with the two weeks left anything is possible…..with the exception of a playoff berth.

The youth movement in the Bronx is continuing to pay winning dividends. The New York Yankees have won seven games in a row and show no signs of slowing down as they play themselves back into serious playoff contention. Not only are they jockeying for position in the Wild Card standings, where they are currently one game out of the 2nd spot, but are now only three games back of the rival Sawx in the race for the AL East. Yep, this is the same team that held an early “Back to School” sale at the trade deadline. And the result? A record of 24-13 and a month long display of what the future may hold in the Bronx.

After a ten game homerless streak where more than a few commentators starting squawking about Kevin Maas, Gary Sanchez returned to early August form with HRs in each of the last two games. The big hitting catcher also pulled a Kelly Leak when he whacked an intentional ball to deep left center, which was good enough to merit a sacrifice fly. Seriously, good luck pitching around this guy. Brian McCann seems to have adjusted to his new role as DH and back-up catcher with a .313 week highlighted by 3 HRs. McCann should easily eclipse the 20 HR mark for the ninth straight season with one more blast. Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner are back to early season form hitting .391 and .318, respectively, over the last week. Gardner in particular saved Tuesday night’s 7-6 win against the Blue Jays when he tracked down Justin Smoak’s line drive to end the game. And Tyler Austin is making a serious case to be the Yankees new full-time first baseman. Next spring, he will have to complete with Greg Bird, who is still recovering from shoulder surgery that has sidelined him this year, but Austin is garnering plenty of favor after Thursday night’s game winning HR over the Rays. At the very least, Austin should be the new 4th OF with Aaron Hicks now thankfully dispensable.

Despite my reservations, Masahiro Tanaka continues to impress as the much needed Yankee ace. Tanaka has won two games during the current win streak and has lowered his ERA to just above 3.00. Most importantly, he has proved to very effective against the explosive line up of the Toronto Blue Jays. Over three starts this season, he has a 2.60 ERA which will be counted on again as the Yanks have one more trip planned north of the border. Bryan Mitchell’s first start of the year was fruitful as he held the aforementioned Jays scoreless over five innings. And while Michael Pineda and CC Sabathia are having their recurring struggles, Joe Girardi is having no issues using his newly expanded September bullpen to get outs. Luis Severino has blossomed in his new middle relief role. Tommy Layne and Chasen Shreve have found success in their recent outings. And even Blake Parker came up big when he found himself in the unfamiliar role of having to get Dellin Betances out of a jam in Tuesday night’s heart-attack inducing 9th inning. Despite the hiccup, Betances should be fine especially with fellow relief ace Tyler Clippard along for back-up.

Another September and the Yankees are playing meaningful baseball. More importantly, they are hot at the right time and not stumbling to the finish line. Not sure they will challenge the 2007 Colorado Rockies 21-1 run but the Yankees are finding many ways to win with a new hero almost every night. There’s plenty of baseball and plenty of hope left in the season.

The 2016 New York Yankees continue to perform just well enough to be considered relevant. Not exactly what fans of the highly priced Bronx Bombers want to hear but we should take what we can get. After taking three straight series from the playoff contending Seattle Mariners, Baltimore Orioles, and Kansas City Royals, the Yanks faltered this past weekend in another series against the O’s. The Yankees salvaged the weekend by winning yesterday’s finale 5-2 after being shut out in back-to-back losses to start the weekend. Technically, the Yankees still have enough time and opportunities to get in the game for October but mostly we are watching a team playing for 2017 and beyond.

Despite a .174 week, Gary Sanchez continues to impress and intimidate with 11 HRs and a .355 average to start his career. He will not qualify for this year’s AL Rookie of the Year but is definitely making a case for serious consideration next season. Didi Gregorius and Starlin Castro have cooled off after their early August starts but are still a formidable DP combo in the AL. Speaking of cooling off, Aaron Judge has turned ice cold after his great start. He is only hitting .177 and looks a bit lost at plate with 32Ks in 62 ABs. Perhaps it’s a good thing the Yankees aren’t playing for October as it will give the young slugger some time to develop. On the bright side, he is not the defensive liability that Carlos Beltran was in RF. And somehow Chase Headley is stepping up his game with a .368 week, though Joe Girardi would still be smart to get regular at-bats for Ronald Torreyes.

Pitching was dealt a considerable blow with the loss of Chad Green for this season, and most likely next season. Not sure what the plan is with the Yankees already short on starting arms after losing Nathan Eovaldi earlier this season. Perhaps we will see more “bullpen games” like in yesterday’s win. Luis Severino is slated to return to the rotation at some point and yet as been his most effective in relief as highlighted by yesterday’s two scoreless frames. With September call-ups in hand, Girardi should take this opportunity to use as many arms as possible to get through games and see who shows potential for future use. And C.C. Sabathia continues to battle and eat up some innings but at this point his days in NY are numbered and his huge salary coming off the books next season should be more than enough to lure a decent free agent signing.

The Yankees have 27 games left, and 24 are against AL East opponents. Unless the Yanks go on historic run, I do not see October baseball. The Yanks are on pace for 83-85 wins which may seem to be a major disappointment but I see as a serious reclamation considering they started the season at 8-16. There’s a month of baseball left in the Bronx and I for one am excited to see what lays ahead this season and next.

It’s nice when things start falling into place. It’s been almost a month since a trade deadline that saw the Yankees uncharacteristically trading off their established stars for farm talent and the Yankees are actually fighting their way back into relevance and possibly the AL East. Of course, it helps to have a rookie Phenom like Gary Sanchez carrying the team with his historic start. The Yankees have an AL East best record of 15-9 in the month of August and are definitely giving Yankee fans reason for hope here in 2016….not to mention 2017 and beyond.

In his first 21 games in pinstripes, Gary Sanchez, aka The Sanchize, is living up to and exceeding expectations. Sanchez is off to a juggernaut rookie campaign with a slashline of .400/.467/.900 highlighted by 11 HRs and 23 RBIs. He is quickly galvanizing the joy of Yankee fans and garnering respect from the league as well as demonstrated by his pair of intentional BBs in the Seattle series. It’s still too soon to tell if this just a small sample size but it’s hard to not be excited by such an impressive debut. And while he may see the majority of starts behind the plate this season, the Yankees would be smart to give the lion’s share of DH at-bats to Brian McCann, who is still on pace for another 20 HR season.

While Gary Sanchez is the current straw stirring the drink, at least offensively, there are plenty of other Yanks who have contributed to this August run that most recently has produced 64 runs in the last 10 games. Starlin Castro is on another hot streak with 3 HRs over this past .444 week. Didi Gregorius is only hitting .258 over August but has 6 HRs in the month. The Yankee middle infield of Castro/Gregorius has combined for a very impressive 35 HRs this year. Ronald Torreyes is campaigning for regular playing time with his .414 August. And even Aaron Hicks is starting to silence the boos at New Yankee Stadium with 4 HRs in 71 August at-bats while hitting .310.

Yankee starting pitching is finally being anchored by Masahiro Tanaka’s ace-like August. Tanaka holds a 2.91 ERA in the month to go with 34Ks and a single BB. Luis Cessa has won back-to-back starts with a 1.50 ERA to go with 10Ks/2 BBs. And despite not being able to qualify for the win in yesterday’s dominance of the Orioles, Chad Green has made great strides in the last few weeks. Green has a 2.51 ERA in his last 28.2 innings, which includes an 11K, 6-inning, no-run gem against the mighty Blue Jays.

The Yankees have plenty of season left and hopefully enough young talent to keep them in the hunt for October. Their current 5 ½ game deficit in the division may seem daunting but they still have time and plenty of opportunities with 28 of their final 34 games against the AL East. They may fall short but Yankee fans are getting a glimpse of the future, and it’s a bright one at that. #TheSanchize.