Greetings Yankee fans! Welcome to the first annual Yankee Yapping Awards!
Well, it’s that dreary time of the year again: the end of the regular season. It’s the most depressing time for most die-hard baseball fans, but for the Yankees and their fans, the journey is not yet complete.
With the AL East crown on their heads, the Yankees will soon make a run for the World Series Title. But before we embark on our playoff run, I’d like to hand out my personal end-of the-season awards to the Yankees who have demonstrated outstanding play on and off the field and who have made the greatest impact on the team.
Away we go!
Yankee Yapping Most Valuable Player
Winner: Derek Jeter
Was there ever any doubt?
Derek Jeter has done it all. This season the Yankee Captain just continued the traditional success he has built up and has played as well as he ever has.
Not only did he become the all-time leader for hits from a shortstop, but he became the all-time Yankee hits leader in 2009. Now that’s impressive!
On Aug. 16 in Seattle Jeter passed Luis Aparicio for all-time hits from a shortstop; what that means is no other shortstop in baseball history has had as many hits as Jeter. There aren’t even words to describe how amazing that is.
The game of baseball dates back to the late 1800s and Jeter owns the most hits by a player from one position.
Then on Sept. 11, Jeter passed Lou Gehrig on the all-time Yankee hits list, becoming the franchise hits leader. The Yankee team dates back almost to the beginning of the game of baseball; 1903 to be exact. 106 years and a modern day player–Jeter–has the most hits in team history.
And his numbers this season are outstanding: 18 homers, 66 RBIs, and as usual, an average over .300, currently at .335. Not to mention his 30 stolen bases on the year–I’m sure not many people expected that from a 35 year-old!
Jeter has also adapted very well to this new role in 2009, the lead-off hitter. He has led off a game with a base hit more than 51 times this year. Jeter needed to become the “table setter,” and he has done an excellent job from the number one spot in the batting order.
Derek Jeter: four World Series Titles, All-Star game MVP, World Series MVP, Rookie of the Year, three gold gloves…and now the Yankee Yapping MVP Award. Congrats Captain!
Yankee Yapping Best Season from a
Winner: Mark Teixeira
He struggled at first. Most Yankee newbies do. But when Alex Rodriguez made his return from hip surgery on May 8, Mark Teixeira was off like a shot and all-systems-go.
Before A-Rod came off the disabled list, Teixeira was slugging only .396–a vast difference from the .596 he was slugging going into Monday. A .200 increase is a huge advancement, I must say.
Along with the increase in slugging percentage, Teixeira’s home run count climbed; since Rodriguez’s return, Tex has clobbered 33 homers and is batting over .300. He hit 33 homers all of last year.
It’s obvious that the protection Rodriguez gave him made Teixeira a little more comfortable at the plate. And that’s why the Yankees got him–to protect Rodriguez.
Yet it hasn’t just been about his bat.
A gold glove caliber player, Teixeira has been unreal on defense this year. He has made some sparkling plays and web gems while putting up a .996 fielding percentage and recording 1,210 put-outs and 49 assists.
If that doesn’t say “gold glove,” I really don’t know what does.
Teixeira was signed on Dec. 23 and the idea of acquiring him is paying off royally. He has hit 39 homers, knocked in 121 runs, and is batting .294 at press time. He also has a good shot at winning the Most Valuable Player Award this season.
While the MVP won’t be decided until mid-November, Teixeira is the Yankee Yapping winner of the greatest season from a newcomer. Congrats Tex!
Yankee Yapping Rookie of the Year
Winner: Brett Gardner
He’s not the biggest. He’s not the strongest. But he might just be the flashiest and he’s definitely the fastest.
Brett Gardner has made a huge statement this season, winning the starting centerfield job right out of spring training. He was playing excellent ball before the season began and was rewarded for it.
On May 15 at home against the Minnesota Twins, Gardner did something I have not seen a Yankee do. What made it better (for me) was that I was there and saw it live and in-person; it’s a memory I know I won’t ever forget.
In 14 seconds, Gardner raced around the bases for an inside-the-park home run in the bottom of the seventh inning. It was probably the greatest show of pure speed I’ve ever seen in my life.
It wasn’t until I got home from the game that night that I found out Gardner had visited a sick girl in the hospital earlier in the day who wanted him to hit a home run for her. He said he’d try to, but couldn’t promise anything. She gave him a yellow bracelet for luck.
I think God was on his side; the fates were working in mysterious ways and maybe, just maybe, that yellow bracelet gave him what he needed to do it.
Gardner wasn’t even starting that night; he only played because Johnny Damon had been thrown out of the game for arguing a bad call. But he came into the game and gave me and the rest of the fans in attendance (and the fans watching around the world) a very special memory…and he gave a very special gift to a sick young lady.
He can just flat-out run; he has stolen 24 bases this year out of 29 attempts and has given the Yankees speed from the likes of which they have never seen before. I don’t think there has ever been a Yankee player faster than Gardner. He is the Flash, that’s all there is to it.
The point is Gardner has stood out from the rest of the rookies on the team both on offense and defense, and aside from being sidelined with a thumb fracture for a short while, he has done a wonderful job this year.
Gardner is a valuable player who has been good enough to be named Yankee Yapping Rookie of the Year. Congrats Brett!
Yankee Yapping Best Impact Player
Winner: Nick Swisher
In the very first edition of the blog a couple of months ago, I said the addition of Nick Swisher has lightened up the mood of the clubhouse and “loosened up” the team. And that was the truth.
If there’s one player on the Yankees who has made the greatest impact this year, it’s been Swisher. His looseness and infectious personality have affected the team in a positive way and he has been probably the biggest clubhouse presence and influence.
I knew from the first game I went to this season on April 22 he was going to have some kind of impact on the team. When the bleacher creatures called for him during roll call, he turned around and saluted them, just like an Army soldier.
I thought it was the greatest thing; while the rest of the Yankees just wave during roll call, Swisher made it a point to show a sign of allegiance to the fans.
It has since been named the “Swisher Salute.”
Swisher’s attitude is great, but it’s not just his feelings that are impacting the team. His numbers haven’t been shabby, either. He has hit 29 homers, something the Yankees probably never expected when they traded for him last November.
I also think he’s kept the Yankees in a lot of games; consider July 30 in Chicago. The Yankees were down by one run in the ninth with two outs. Swisher came up and drilled a solo homer to keep the Yankees alive.
One of the best things I’ve seen from him was the walk-off homer he hit on Sept. 8. Swisher was so excited after the game he could barely speak. It was his second homer of the game and first game-winning homer as a member of the Yankees.
I think that game cemented his spot as a Yankee fan-favorite.
He’s also knocked in 82 runs to this point and is batting .251, a step above the .219 he hit last year. His numbers are kind of reflecting his attitude: positive and upbeat.
Congrats Swisher. We salute you!
Yankee Yapping Clutch Performer of
Winner: Melky Cabrera
He has been a pleasant surprise for the Yankees this year. Melky Cabrera didn’t make the starting lineup at the outset of the 2009 season, but he has certainly earned trust and a great deal of respect among the fans.
On April 22, he hit the first walk-off home run in the new Yankee Stadium in the bottom of the 14th inning to beat the Oakland A’s.
The same kind of idea from last year popped into my head; Jose Molina was last player to hit a home run in the old stadium. Now Cabrera was the first one to hit a walk-off?
Well unlike Molina, it wasn’t just an isolated incident.
Not even a month later on May 15 he hit a walk-off single to beat the Twins. And again it wasn’t just a freak occurrence; eight days later “Clutch Cabrera” struck again, knocking in yet another game-winning run against the defending champion Philadelphia Phillies.
And it’s not like he stopped.
On Aug. 2 in Chicago vs. the White Sox, Cabrera accomplished something no other Yankee has done since Tony Fernandez in 1995: he hit for the cycle. A single, a double, a triple, and a home run all in the same game. It’s one of the most difficult feats to accomplish in all of baseball and Cabrera was able to do it.
The cycle was just another piece of the clutch year Cabrera had and he was recognized for it when he won Pepsi Clutch Performer of the Month for May. By the time he was named winner of the award, Cabrera had 23 RBIs on the year. Of those 23 RBIs, 11 of them either tied the game or put the Yankees ahead in the seventh inning or later.
His three walk-off hits were also the most by a Yankee in a single season since Claudell Washington, who had four game-ending base hits in 1988.
Cabrera has been a clutch, walk-off warrior in 2009, with timely hits in pressure situations. Congrats Melk-man!
Yankee Yapping Ace of the Year
Winner: CC Sabathia
He has been a workhorse. He has been a big-game pitcher. And most games he has pitched, he has been almost un-hittable.
CC Sabathia has made it in New York, granted he was a little shaky coming out of the gate, losing on opening day to the Baltimore Orioles in embarrassing fashion. Many fans and critics suggested that Sabathia may not be able to handle being a Yankee, the way some others (*cough–Randy Johnson–cough*) couldn’t.
But he answered them by going 11-1 since the All-Star break with a chance at 20 wins for the season. Talk about having the stuff of an ace. I am impressed with what Sabathia has done.
I also am taken back by Sabathia’s ability to win against the Red Sox this year. Two of the last three times he has faced the Yanks’ arch-rivals, he has no-hit them into the middle-to-late innings, as noted last week.
That’s always a good sign going into the playoffs. If the Yankees have a pitcher that can throw effectively against Boston, it’s a huge advantage for the Bronx Bombers. And Sabathia has provided them with that edge.
I really think Sabathia should win the Cy Young Award this year. I know Zack Greinke has put up great numbers on a losing team and is leading the league in most of the major pitching categories, but if you ask me, Sabathia has just been more valuable to his team.
The Yankee ace can just eat up innings, (he currently has 227 1/3 for the year) strike people out, (194 on the season) and win games (19 wins, which leads the AL) so I really feel he deserves it a little more.
Plus, Sabathia kept his team in the race while Greinke and the Kansas City Royals sank to the basement of the AL Central rather quickly.
If there was an MVP Award just for the pitchers, Sabathia would get it. And although he may or may not be “Cy Cy” Sabathia this year, he is the winner of Yankee Yapping Ace of the Year Award, which is worth something in my book. Congrats, CC!
Yankee Yapping Most Improved
Winner: Phil Hughes
Phil Hughes has come a long way in his young career.
From his “almost no-hitter” on May 1, 2007 against the Texas Rangers to his brilliant show in October against the Cleveland Indians in relief of Roger Clemens; from his stint on the disabled list to his move to the bullpen, Hughes has been the biggest improvement for the Yankees in 2009.
At the beginning of the year, he looked pretty good, pitching somewhat effectively in the starting rotation. On April 28 he made an awesome start against the Yankees’ probable first round playoff opponents, the Detroit Tigers.
Hughes tossed six scoreless innings that night while striking out six batters, a career-high for him at the time (he since has notched a new career high in strikeouts in a single game; he fanned nine vs. the Orioles on May 20) Not bad at all.
Another notable start of Hughes’s came five days after his nine strikeout game on May 25 against the same team he almost no-hit in ’07, the Rangers. The 23 year-old tossed eight innings of shutout ball to beat Texas.
When Chien-Ming Wang returned to the rotation after coming off the disabled list (only to go back on it) Hughes was placed in the bullpen, where he has been ever since. And since his move to the bullpen, Hughes has been virtually lights out and everything has gotten better.
As noted in Edition 13, every facet of Hughes’s game from his velocity to his individual pitching statistics has improved since his move to the ‘pen. Right now he has 18 holds and three saves with a record of 8-3 on the year–a huge step up from the 0-4 record he posted last year.
Hughes also has 95 strikeouts at press time. That’s the most he’s ever had in a single season. Last year he only struck out 23 batters. Not only do I have a feeling he will just keep getting better as he goes along, he could even be the next Yankee closer.
Hughes certainly stepped up his game from the abysmal 2008 season and has performed remarkably well in 2009. He’s earned it. Congrats, Phil!
Yankee Yapping Best Season from a
Winner: Chad Gaudin
A journeyman is defined as an experienced, reliable worker, athlete, or performer (in this case an athlete) who is distinguished from one who is brilliant or colorful. I would say Chad Gaudin has been that guy for the Yanks this year.
When I think of a journeyman, I think of a player who has bounced around from team to team without playing as a mainstay; instead of staying with one team he might have a “cup of coffee” with a number of teams.
Gaudin has been in the league since 2003 and has played for the Tampa Bay Rays, the Toronto Blue Jays, the Oakland Athletics, the Chicago Cubs, the San Diego Padres, and now the Yankees.
The poor guy couldn’t find a home.
But this year Gaudin has found at least a home until 2010 with the Yankees, being used in both the starting rotation and bullpen this year. And he’s made the most of what he’s been given to work with and has done a fantastic job for the Yanks this year.
When the Yankees acquired Gaudin from the Padres, his season record was not pretty; 4-10 in 19 starts on the year. But since his move over to the American League, Gaudin has gone 2-0 with the Yankees winning all six of his starts.
To me, that says he has the ability to keep the Yankees in the game when he pitches.
What’s also impressive are Gaudin’s numbers in September. He went 1-0 with two quality starts in the final month before the post-season, striking out 18 batters in the 26 2/3 innings he pitched.
Perhaps Gaudin can earn himself a post-season roster spot for the way he has been able to effectively pitch this season. And if nothing else, he earned my Best Season by a Journeyman Award. Congrats, Chad!
Yankee Yapping Comeback Player of
Winner: Hideki Matsui
“Trade him. His knees are shot. He can’t play the field anymore. His production and overall quality has gone down. Say sayonara to Hideki!”
All things I said at the beginning of the year. And boy did Hideki Matsui make me sound nuts! The 35 year-old designated hitter has had a resurgent 2009, putting up mind-boggling numbers this season.
First consider Matsui’s 2008 stats: 93 games played, nine home runs, 45 RBIs, only 143 total bases–the second lowest amount Matsui ever put up in a single season. He also only hit safely 99 times, again the second lowest total of his career.
Now take a look at his 2009 numbers: 140 games played, 28 home runs, 90 RBIs, 231 total bases, and 124 hits.
Talk about making a huge statement when fans like me thought he was totally washed up.
He proved a lot of people (including myself) wrong. He may not be able to play the field anymore because of his knees, but Matsui can still hit and be a force in the Yankee lineup. His presence and capability can still strike fear into the hearts of opposing pitchers.
This season Matsui set a new record for home runs by a Yankee designated hitter. He passed Don Baylor for all-time homers from a DH when he smacked his 26th home run of the season on Aug. 19. Baylor had hit 25 in 1984.
Not only that, Matsui won Pepsi Clutch Performer on the Month in August, following his teammate Melky Cabrera, who of course won the award in May. What put Matsui over the top was his amazing show in Boston from Aug. 21-23, when he crushed four homers in three games against the Red Sox.
But also keep in mind that he played in 24 games in August carrying a .282 average with eight homers and 25 RBIs overall.
Matsui has done a wonderful job this season and has turned a lot of heads and raised a lot of eyebrows with his performance at the plate. He may only be a DH now, but he’s making the best of it and he has earned back all of my respect. Congrats, Hideki!
Yankee Yapping Reliever of the Year
Winner: Mariano Rivera
Again I can say, was thereever any doubt?
Mariano Rivera has been the rock of the bullpen all year long and has done as good, if not better, than recent years. Mo hasn’t reached 40 saves since the 2005 season and he’s even passed the number he put up that year; Rivera currently has 44 saves this season, basically giving opposing teams no chance in the ninth inning.
The Yankee closer has converted all 44 saves in only 46 opportunities, blowing only two saves on the season (April 21 in Boston and September 18 in Seattle)
But they were only two hiccups in what has been a historic year for Rivera.
On June 28, Rivera became only the second player in MLB history to reach 500 career saves, shutting down the Mets at Citi Field in a 4-2 Yankee win. Not only did Rivera get his 500th save in that game, he recorded his first career RBI, drawing a bases loaded walk issued by Mets’ closer Francisco Rodriguez.
At press time Rivera has slammed the door 526 times in his career. He may not tag Trevor Hoffman for all-time saves in baseball history, but the man is still a legend.
I attended the game on Tuesday, Sept. 29 at Yankee Stadium and was taken back by everything the Yankees gave Rivera in honor of his 500th career save.
They presented him with the rubber from the mound at Citi field the night he recorded the big save, a beautiful collage detailing his career in pictures, and they even gave him the bullpen bench from the old Yankee Stadium. (Ceremony Pictured below)
The entire team came out and congratulated Rivera and Derek Jeter (who was also being honored for his passing of Lou Gehrig on the all-time Yankee hits list in the ceremony) for their accomplishments. A classy act by the team, I must say.
Rivera has been the best in the business for years and years. This year wasn’t any different. He was the same old Mo–lights out and game over. Congrats Mariano!
Yankee Yapping Contract Player of
Winner: Johnny Damon
Allow me to first explain the nature of this award.
This accolade is going to the player whose contract is up at the end of this season, and he has earned the right to play another year for the Yankees. In my eyes, the winner of this award deserves a new deal.
And that player is Johnny Damon.
The soon-to-be 36 year-old left fielder is batting .280 this season with a career-high 24 homers and 79 RBIs. That is some decent production out of the number two hole in the batting order.
Damon has already made it known that he wants to come back to the Yankees and I’m pretty sure most of the fans would love to have him back. He has had such a positive impact on the entire team and has really done some great things in pinstripes.
I would hate to see him in a different uniform and playing for a different team next year.
And I think you have to look at his overall numbers from his tenure with the Yankees. In all four years to this point he has hit 77 homers with 293 RBIs while averaging nearly .285 at the plate.
I think the best show Damon gave us the fans came on June 7, 2008. He hit safely six times that day, knocked in four runs (including the game-winning run) and stole a base. It was one the best performances I’ve ever seen from a single player in one game.
In addition to his regular season stats and ability to reach base as shown last season, his post-season numbers have been solid all four of his Yankee years and really all-around in his entire career.
His career post season numbers for every team he has played on are impressive; he owns a .278 batting average with five home runs and 16 RBIs. That’s a good amount of production in the month of October, I must say.
His defense is a little below average now (namely his arm) and maybe his speed has gone down a little bit with his age, but no one can take away how valuable a veteran player like Damon is.
If the Yankees don’t at least offer him arbitration, it’s the wrong move. Damon deserves at least one more year in pinstripes. And if not, he at least deserves it in my view. Congrats Damon!
Well, that wraps up this award ceremony. Congrats to every Yankee on winning the AL East and what you have accomplished this year.
Good luck, Yankees. We’ll see you in October!