Archives for posts with tag: The Captain

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.

Any baseball fan who wants to get a true sense of the history of the game need only to find their way to the stadium at Yawkey Way in Boston. To visit Fenway Park is to enter one of the last remaining cathedrals where baseball worship is practiced and encouraged. Every sight, sound, and feeling evoked while walking around this living testament to the most enduring game in American history is to be cherished and remembered. And no, I will not start reciting James Earl Jones’ “Field of Dreams” speech, even if it is apropos. Suffice to say, if you haven’t been to Fenway, just go.

Last year I had the opportunity to catch my first game at Fenway and I had so much fun, aside from watching the Yankees lose for the 12th straight live game, I had no choice but make the trip again. It helps that I seem to keep winning a lottery for Yanks/Sawx tickets. Before such highly touted tickets go on sale to the public, the Red Sox hold an email lottery and give winners a chance to buy tickets before the general public has at them. It figures that my Red Sox loving wife entered my email address as a backup to her own and mine has now been chosen two years in a row.

It also helps to have family nearby. The trip is special since I get to spend time in Brockton with my uncle and his family. Brockton is about forty minutes southwest of Boston and may as well be renamed “Boston II” considering the amount of ribbing I take for wearing my Yankee hat around town. But it is all in good fun. As I have learned over the last few years, the Yanks/Sawx rivalry may boil over on the field from time to time, but among the actual fans it’s surprisingly friendly and you just need to have a sense of humor about yourself and the team you have chosen. Hence, if you are a Yankee fan, get ready to defend A-Roid….or don’t.

Last Monday, my wife and I, along with my cousin and her boyfriend, made the drive into the city. My uncle and aunt continued to show parental caution with my decision to wear “Yankee garb” at Fenway. But I figured I was going with three Sawx fans and I did the same exact thing at last year’s game. And thankfully it was a non-issue. Fenway Park is the only stadium aside from New Yankee Stadium where I can truly feel comfortable wearing my Pinstripe Pride. It’s a true fan experience. We are all in this together, rooting for our respective teams and marveling at the game of baseball where anything can happen.

The first thing that took some adjusting on this evening was not seeing #2 in a Yankee uniform, at least on the field. Seeing a Derek Jeter jersey at a ballgame is as common as seeing people with earbuds on the street. But a Yankee game without Derek Jeter. A Yankee game without Derek Jeter? It’s Shakespeare without Laurence Olivier. It’s Sondheim without Bernadette Peters. Heck, it’s a Die Hard movie without Bruce Willis. But life goes on, our heroes age, and we accept the new.

As for the game itself, it seemed to unfold in the familiar outline I have been accustomed to over the past 12 losses that I have witnessed. Though I did think things might change when the Yankees jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the top of the first. But the Yankees would keep squandering opportunities while leaving fourteen runners on base leading to a 4-3 loss. Sawx fans were ecstatic per usual and the victory was highlighted by a two run HR by superstar-in-the-making Mookie Betts and a solo shot from Big Papi, number 495 in his career.

So, I got watch the Yanks lose again. But, at least it was at Fenway. No, it still sucks. The only thing that eases the pain is reminding myself that I was at Fenway. And let’s be honest, Fenway thrives on misery. This park was witness to 86 years of catastrophic losing. Fenway feels my pain on this night and accepts it. It’s like Fenway embraces you and makes you feel loved, even if you are rooting for the losing team.

This is the land of Teddy Ballgame, Yaz, Dewey Evans, a pre-roided Rocket, and Pedro. Every game at Fenway feels like a window to the past, as if you can squint your eyes and still see the greats of game in their prime on the diamond. If there’s no crying in baseball then there’s no feeling ungrateful at Fenway. Every game at Fenway is an honor, a privilege and a memory in the makings.

So, thank you, Fenway, and thank you, Red Sox Nation, for another truly enjoyable night. Thanks for a complete lack of drama or any threats to the safety of myself and my fellow loved ones. Thanks for letting me enjoy a game of baseball, even it was another Yankee loss, which you obviously enjoyed. Oh, the misery.

Thanks to my family for hosting me and my Michigan based wife. And special thanks to my Red Sox loving wife for embracing my love of baseball and enhancing it through her own enthusiasm without rubbing these Yankee losses in.

But I will endure, and it did help that the Yankees went on to win the final two games of the series, as they often do when I am not in attendance. I look forward to my next Boston bound baseball trip but with only one caveat: next time, Green Monster seats!

Fenway 8.31.15Fenway 8.31.15 Pic 2

Last season saw the end of Derek Jeter’s baseball career and the end of an era in the Bronx. Hard to argue with a legacy that helped lead to 7 pennants and 5 World Series championships. Yankee fans like myself were blessed to be along for the ride and that ride has now come to an end. So with the 2015 baseball season just around the corner it’s time to look forward and see what’s in store for the Bronx Bombers. It’s also time to see who will lead the team and who we can root for as fans.

I have been very happy with the recent acquisitions of Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Chase Headley. I am also optimistic that a healthy Carlos Beltran still has some productive numbers left. But as far as a new favorite Yankee, to cheer on and identify with, my choice is easy: Brett Gardner.

First, he’s a homegrown prospect. The Yankees take a lot of heat for the money they spend on free agents, and more often than not are throwing good money after bad. But they also rarely get credit for the talent they have developed. The heart of the late 90’s championship run pulsed not only with the talent of Derek Jeter but Andy Pettitte, Bernie Williams, Mariano Rivera, and Jorge Posada. As a fan, I take a lot of pride in being able to root for a player who came up through the ranks and wasn’t a mere off-season acquisition.

Second, he’s got speed. Sure he also has power but the modern game has become inundated with an obsession with the long ball and tape measure shots. I like watching a player like Gardner, and the recently departed Ichiro, who can win games with his legs. Every infield grounder is a potential base hit. Every ball in the gap is a potential triple. Every wild pitch is a potential run scoring from third base. And every opponent’s line drive is a potential out to be caught. Speed is exciting and Gardner’s a refreshing throwback-type player. He even wears the high socks like players of old.

Third, he’s a pesky hitter. Every year Gardner is near the top of the list of pitches seen per at-bat. He has a way of working counts and fouling pitches off, which makes him an ideal leadoff hitter. He does strikeout a little too often but at least he makes opposing pitchers earn it. In today’s game, where the pitch count is monitored like vital signs in an emergency room, Brett Gardner is a high value asset needed to get to the opposing team’s bullpen.

Fourth, he doesn’t make waves. He’s been a staple in the Yankee lineup since 2010 and never have I heard a bad word or complaint from Brett Gardner. No bitching about being underutilized or not making enough money, and not a single incident of chest-thumping. Brett Gardner seems content to be a part of the team and a contributor. Now, I think he’s ready to take a step forward and lead this next generation Yankee team.

Brett Gardner has a lot riding this season as the Yankees attempt to end a two season playoff drought, which is the equivalent to the Royals 29 year drought to Yankee fans. He has shown skill, instinct, tenacity, and all around All-Star type talent. Now in 2015, the lights may seem a little brighter and the fans a little more ornery. Things may seem bleak at times but he can count on my fandom as well as a lot more like-minded Yankees fans. Go Gardy!

I know, a Yankee fan isn’t entitled to a wish list considering this team’s considerable history of winning, usually backed by Kardshasian-esque spending sprees. But they are the team of my youth. They have won 7 World Series titles in my lifetime and I am happy to watch them succeed whenever possible. With that said, here is this year’s list:

1. Leave Brian McCann Alone – Am I the only person, fan or media, who thinks Brian McCann had a very good first year in the Bronx? I know the new school sabermasochists point at his slash line of .232/.298/.406 as unimpressive. I look at the 23 HRS and 75 RBIS, both which led the team, and say AMEN! Those are Jorge Posada numbers and better than both of Russell Martin’s years in pinstripes. And defensively, McCann led the American League by throwing out 37% of baserunners. He also had a knack for the clutch with a number of go-ahead hits in the 7th inning and later. I will take 2014 Brian McCann for the next four years.

2. Time Travel, Undo the Martin Prado Deal and Re-Sign Brando McCarthy- I get that the Yankees are trying to undo the spending of the past and Nathan Eovaldi can be a solid 5th man, but giving up Prado may be too high of a price too pay. McCarthy was signed by the Dodgers for 4 years/$48 million and would have been a more sound investment. Instead, the Yanks will have to hope Eovaldi can be this year’s Brandon McCarthy. Also, Prado at 2B could have taken some of the pressure of new SS Didi Gregorius. Instead 2B will be a Rob Refsnyder/Jose Pirela showdown in the spring.

3. A Healthy Carlos Beltran – The new Yankee RF had a disappointing, injury-plagued season and I do believe he has something left in the tank. It’s been his dream to play in the Bronx and I hope this doesn’t become a Carl Pavano-eque stint.

4. A New Era at SS – No one replaces Derek Jeter, as a baseball player and ambassador for the game, but Didi Gregorius is slated to takeover. So far, Didi has said all the right things and shown respect for his role. I hope fans and media alike will allow him the opportunity to grow in his new role as Yankee SS. He is not looking to replace The Captain, Didi Gregorius just wants a chance to add to the winning tradition. He has my full support.

5. The Headley Plan Enacted – This is actually a wish I made last August when I hoped the Yankees would re-sign the veteran 3B. Headley impressed me with his stellar defense and plate discipline. He can also back-up Mark Teixeira at 1B, even with the recent acquisition of Garrett Jones in the Prado deal.

6. The End of A-Roid – If one player embodies the sin of overspending it would be Alex Rodriguez, aka A-Roid. I assumed that the Yankees would try to get some value from the $61 million left on his Biogenesis inflated contract, but the recent re-signing of Chase Headley means 3B is locked up. And backup 1B Garrett Jones would be an excellent full-time DH candidate with his career .450 slugging percentage. The writing is on the wall. I hope A-Roid doesn’t need glasses or a Vitamin A shot to read it.

This year’s squad looks a lot like last year’s squad. I can only pray that the injury bug/epidemic can stay at bay. All I want is 85+ wins and a shot at October baseball.

That’s my wish, this year and every year. Looking forward to the spring. Go Yanks!!!

Today I will pay tribute to Derek Jeter one more time as I attempt to live blog during his last game ever. So, please forgive me any spelling or grammar errors as I will be writing this threw many emotions and more than a few tears.

1st inning

Looks as if the Red Sox held a very respectful pre-game ceremony in honor of Derek Jeter. I would expect nothing less, though there was that 1% chance I thought they might just hand him a sack full of dog crap embroidered with the words “Suck It.”

Wow, loud chants of DE-REK JE-TER. Close your eyes and you think you’re in the Bronx. Nice job, Fenway.

Okay, how close do you need to get for a picture of Jeter? If those two lean over any closer they will get a proctological shot of The Captain.

Feel free to hang a few breaking balls, Bucholz. No one will think less of you, especially with your ERA this season.

Looked like a hit to LF but ends up an at’em ball to SS.

No one will replace The Captain soon, at SS or as a Yankee, but Brett Gardner is the Yankee I think has the best chance to fill some of the void. He’s gutsy, grinds it out everyday, and is very easy to root for.

Looking forward to a full season of Michael Pinhead next year, minus any pinetar.

I’m guessing that the only way the Sawx could draft and develop a player named Mookie is in a post-Babe Ruth curse world. The Mets may want to find a prospect named Buckner.

2nd inning

Is there an at-bat that Headley can’t work into a full count? Crappy result but still would love to see him re-signed in the offseason.

Red Sox and Yankee fans co-existing, who woulda thunk it? What’s next, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria!

3rd inning

I wonder if Big Papi has any tips for the Yankee DH. I am sure Jeter is honored to play in front of the Fenway faithful but he’d rather be in the field playing a meaningful game.

Come on, let’s get some baserunners. I want to see five Jeter at-bats.

Feels like I am just watching any other Sawx/Yanks game. Guess it won’t sink in that this is it, until opening day 2015.

Nice job, Ichiro! Two run triple and Jeter to follow!

And another high chop for an infield hit! And that’s it! Jeter lifted for a pinchrunner. Let the applause begin and tears roll down.

I’m guessing that is the only time you will see Brian McCann called upon to pinch run. And to thunderous applause.

Great sendoff, Fenway!!!

That was also Derek Jeter’s 50th RBI of the season. He has had at least 50 RBIs in every full season he has played. Not bad for a hitter who has primarily hit 2nd and leadoff.

McCann showing wheels, and the Yanks take a 4-0 lead.

The Yanks score 4 in a very historic inning, and it had nothing to do with the 4 runs. The Captain’s career is over.

1-2-3 inning for Pineda. Looks sharp. Hope he finishes strong to make this day complete with a Yankee win.

4th inning

Yeah, this game has quickly lost its luster.

Pineda is dealing. A healthy Pineda may have made a difference this season.

5th inning

Jeter’s parents turned down an on-camera interview. No doubt about where his humility comes from.

Seriously, the life has been completely sucked out of this game. Okay, Pineda, bean someone next half inning.

The Red Sox seem to have a healthy crop of young players. Hope to see them get the Sawx back into the AL East race next season.

Nice play, Drew. But you still can’t hit a lick and no way you get to replace Jeter next year.

6th inning

What piece of Jeter memorabilia would I want from today? Jersey? Hat? Batting gloves? Cleats? Bat? Glove? Yeah, I’d want it all.

No, no begrudging respect from Red Sox Nation, just respect.

Jose Pirela continuing to flash the leather at 2B. Any chance he can be converted to SS? Just wondering….

7th inning

Take away the 3rd inning and Bucholz had quite the outing, almost matching Pineda.

And Pirela doubles, bolstering his case to stay with the big team next year. Yanks, 6-0.

And John Ryan Murphy makes it 7-0. Yanks trying to make sure that Jeter’s RBI hit stands up.

And Romine makes it 8-0. Mercy rule time?

Yeah, figures Teixeira would find a way to make the 1st out.

Nice opposite field hit by Headley to make it 9-0.

Bernie Williams just played “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” on his guitar! Fenway, I am falling in love with you! What a super classy move! This would be worthy of a Suzyn Waldman overreaction. And yes, I am crying.

9-0 lead, Rogers. Just throw some damn strikes.

Okay, I was joking about beaning someone. Come on, Rogers, get your head in the game.

A little excitement for Sawx fans as the bases are cleared. Yanks, 9-3.

Sox make it a game with a two-run double by Mookie Betts. Yanks, 9-5.

Finally, inning over. Now, can it please go back to being boring?

8th inning

Back to back impressive plays by Weeks at SS. Would the Red Sox be willing to deal him?

And Warren is dealing. He has blown a few saves this year but otherwise been a key contributor to the bullpen’s success this year. Too bad the offense didn’t give him more leads to protect.

9th inning

Yanks go in order and on to the last half inning of the season.

More painful: Denzel offing bad guys in The Equalizer or the punishment Francisco Cervelli has taken behind the plate today? Just brutal.

Just one out to go.

Guess this is the very last time we will hear the Derek Jeter chant in Fenway, unless he buys the team someday.

And that’s it. Game over. Yankees win 9-5.

Still very hard to process that this is it. The season is over and Derek Jeter is gone.

Thanks, Captain. What an amazing career. We were blessed to just watch.

Re2spect, forever…….

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 bath 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.

This is the end, beautiful friend
This is the end, my only friend, the end
Of our elaborate plans, the end.

Only seven games left in the Yankee season and career of The Captain. The Bronx Bombers currently sit at 85-80 and would need a Walt Disney-esque miracle just to secure the 2nd Wild Card slot. On the bright side, they play their last games against a Baltimore team that is preparing its lineup and rotation for the divisional round and a Sawx squad that is using its last few weeks to evaluate young talent for 2015. The Yankees have an excellent chance to win 5 of the last 7 games and equal last year's 85 win total. Not exactly what your goal should be after last winter's spending spree, but this year you take what you can get.

And in this last week we as fans can truly appreciate Derek Jeter in his final games. With the distraction of a possible October run all but eliminated, the Yankees can simply play out their season and the Captain can do what he does best: play and enjoy every minute. Coming into tonight's contest, Jeter is batting .391 in his last seven games. Yankee fans may just be blessed to see Jeter's very best here at the end. Or maybe it will just be a case of Jeter being Jeter and always playing his best when it matters most.

As for the rest of the team, Jacoby Ellsbury finally succumbed to injury like many thought he would. Of course his hamstring pull was the result of hustling down the line to beat out a double play. I look forward to many more seasons of such effort. Recent acquisition Chris Young is making a case to be next year's 4th OF, though I still prefer Ichiro Suzuki having a chance at 3,000 hits in pinstripes. The bullpen has been lights out with rookie phenom Dellin Betances becoming the league's premiere set-up ace and David Robertson easily slipping into Mariano Rivera's shoes. And Brian McCann may be hitting around .230 but his 22 HRS and 71 RBIS, along with first rate play behind the plate have been worth every penny.

Here's hoping the Yankees find a way to end strong and give us fans hope for next year. And maybe, just maybe, Derek Jeter has just enough magic to make this last week truly as memorable as the previous twenty seasons. Go Captain!