Results tagged ‘ Hideki Matsui ’

End of the Year Awards

 

Time to hand out some awards!

As the end of the 2010 regular Major League Baseball season rapidly approaches, the Yankees once again have lived to play autumn baseball in New York. At the very least, the Bronx Bombers will go into the postseason as the American League Wild Card team. Yet they can still capture the American League Eastern Division over the Tampa Bay Rays.

At press time they are a ½ game out of first place in the AL East.

With only three games left after tonight’s 8-3 loss vs. the Toronto Blue Jays, it is once again time to hand out the Yankee Yapping End of the Year Awards. Last year I gave out various commendations to numerous Yankees who showed what being a Bronx Bomber is all about.

Since 2010 was a stark contrast to 2009, there are new awards this year to accommodate what each player has done or accomplished this past season. Without any further ado, here are the 2010 Yankee Yapping Awards!

 

Yankee Yapping Most Valuable Player

Winner: Robinson Cano

 

Most Valuable Cano

The Yankees are very lucky to have a player like Robinson Cano. This season, the slugging second baseman has put together an MVP caliber season with 28 home runs and 106 RBIs to this point. His numbers indicate a great year, but he did not win the YY MVP simply because of his offensive production.

His defense and overall character put him over the top.

In 155 games at second base this season (talk about durability!) Cano has only committed three errors. He has also helped turn 111 double plays and has secured a fielding percentage of .996.

Can you say Gold Glove?

Cano has also had the most consistent season among all Yankee hitters. Derek Jeter is currently hitting under .300, Mark Teixeira got off to a tortoise-like start, and Alex Rodriguez spent time on the disabled list. Cano did not slip under .300 this year, nor did he start off slow or get injured.

His season has all the makings of a valuable player.

Congrats Robinson!

 

Yankee Yapping’s Most Pleasant Surprise

Winner: Marcus Thames

Thames did well. I gotta hand it to him.

I’ll be the first to admit that when the Yankees let Johnny Damon go…or he let himself go…that I thought picking up Marcus Thames was a bad idea. He had already been a Yankee in 2002, although he was not what we would call a real Yankee.

Everyone knows that, in his first stint in pinstripes, Thames clubbed his first career home run in his first career at-bat off brand-name future Hall of Famer Randy Johnson. What most people don’t know is that home run was the only long ball Thames hit in his first go-round with the Yankees and he only played seven games.

2010 was his second chance and he certainly took advantage of it.

To go along with his batting average of .291, Thames has smacked 12 home runs this year and has driven in 33 runs. Two of his homers this season stand out to me.

First off, his third home run of the year, which came on July 11–only because of who he hit it off: Brian Sweeney of the Seattle Mariners.

As almost everyone knows by now, I interviewed Sweeney over the summer and he is a graduate of my College. That home run was bittersweet for me. I was happy to see Thames get around on a hanging curveball and smash a homer, but at the same time I felt bad for Sweeney.

Being such a nice guy and, without any sarcasm, the best interview I have ever conducted, I had no choice but to feel remorseful for my fellow Mercy alumnus. But Thames did a fantastic job of clubbing the ball!

The second home run that sticks out was his walk-off blast against Jonathan Papelbon and the Boston Red Sox on May 17. After A-Rod tied the game with one swing of the bat, Thames played the role of hero and swatted Papelbon to a loss.

A glorious home run to cap off a glorious victory over Boston in the Bronx.

I may have said some harsh things about him at the beginning of the year when he struggled, but he has proved me wrong. Congrats Marcus!

 

Yankee Yapping Player Who Needs to Improve for 2011

Winner: A.J. Burnett

I love you, buddy.

He had a terrible season. I know. All of Yankee Universe knows. The whole world knows.

A.J. Burnett has one more start this season (on Saturday in Boston) and will finish 2010 under .500. He is currently 10-15 with an earned run average of 5.33. In his last 10 games Burnett is 1-6 with an ERA of 6.26. Opponents are hitting .286 against him and he has allowed 107 earned runs this season.

If that doesn’t scream the words “off-year” I really don’t know what does.

Many Yankee fans are skeptical about how he will perform in the postseason and would not trust Burnett with the ball in an important game. Yankee Universe also feels he should be bumped from the number two spot in the starting rotation; some are even going as far as saying he should be put in the bullpen.

I agree. He should be bumped from the number two spot and I doubt that he will be plugged into any spot in the starting rotation, at least for the American League Division Series. If he goes to the bullpen, he might be able to carve a niche for himself, the same way Phil Hughes did last year in relief.

Although Burnett had an abysmal year, the one thing I will not do is give up on him. I understand how poorly he produced over the summer, but something many fans forget is that he began the year at 4-0 with an ERA under three. He got off to the best start of his career only to have it collapse on him; the most successful start of his life tragically morphed into the worst season he has ever had.

The other day I was asked if the Yankees would trade Burnett over the off-season because of his poor season.

The answer is easy: No. Here are three reasons Burnett is staying in pinstripes.

1)      His salary. He is owed $49.5 million over the next three years. Give me the name of a team who is going to pick up that tab? Oh, that’s right. You can’t.

 

2)       His trade value. With his lopsided numbers, who would want him?

 

3)      The Yankees’ faith in their big free agent pitchers. Anyone remember Carl Pavano? He was owed less money than Burnett, pitched worse than Burnett, and the Yankees held onto him without even trying to shop him.

 

It’s no contest. Burnett will be in pinstripes for awhile.

And while he is in pinstripes, he needs to learn how to handle himself, go out and win games. I have seen how physically capable Burnett is really is when he is pitching. He can throw 96-98 mph fastballs, something not even Mike Mussina could pull off in 2008, the year he won 20 games.

I think it’s all mental when it comes to Burnett’s struggles. Perhaps he should consult the team psychiatrist. Wait, is there a team psychiatrist?

At any rate, it’s a not a particularly good award to win, A.J. But I still have faith that you can improve, bounce back, have a solid postseason like last year and return strong in 2011.

I still believe in you, A.J. We A.J.s have to stick together through thick and thin.

 

Yankee Yapping Sayonara Award

Winners: Javier Vazquez and Nick Johnson


TERRIBLE. 

First of all, allow me to explain the nature of this award. I am handing out this award to two players who the Yankees signed, are not under contract for next season, and are most likely not coming back next year.

I had no choice but to give it Javier Vazquez and Nick Johnson.

When the Yankees decided to acquire Vazquez during the off-season, I was unbelievably confused. With a somewhat failed season in pinstripes already under his belt (2004) it shocked me that the Yanks went out and traded Melky Cabrera for Vazquez during the winter meetings.

This season just proved to me that Vazquez is not and never was suited for pinstripes. The reason the Yanks wanted him was because of how well he pitched last season, but what they did not take into consideration was that he pitched in the National League.

Vazquez made the move from the NL to the AL, and not just the AL–the AL East, where the best of the best play. And when he made that move, he traveled to a 10-10 record this year with an ERA over five.

That’s enough to say, “Thanks, but no thanks. See ya, Javy.”

Now onto Johnson…

Talk about a waste of money and time. I think his uncle, Larry Bowa, should chastise him for being such a mediocre and otherwise useless ballplayer. The Yanks signed Johnson to be an everyday designated hitter and replace Hideki Matsui in the lineup.

His numbers: 24 games played, two home runs, eight RBIs, and a .167 batting average.

…………………….

Sorry, I had to run to my bathroom and puke.

Both Vazquez and Johnson are no longer under contract for 2011. Thank God.

Congrats on the award, fellas. Have fun on another team next season!

 

Yankee Yapping Ace of the Year

Winner: CC Sabathia

Big Bad CC does it again.

When all the dust had cleared at the end of 2009, CC Sabathia had 22 wins, including the postseason. The postseason has not even begun this year and the Yankees’ number one man has 21 wins. With that, he became the first Yankee to win 21 games in the regular season since Andy Pettitte, who accomplished the feat in 1996.

 If the regular season is any indication of how Sabathia will perform in October, the Yankees will be in excellent shape every time he toes the rubber. Just as Burnett has had the worst season of his career, Sabathia has statistically had the best season he has ever had.

Needless to say, he is a shoe in for the Cy Young Award. CC might very well be “Cy Cy.”

Sabathia logged 237 2/3 innings this year, coupled with 197 strikeouts. He made 34 starts, tossed two complete games, and opponents only hit .239 against him.

If all goes right for him again, he could capture another postseason MVP award, as he was the American League Championship Series MVP in 2009. Either way, I have no doubt that Sabathia will have more hardware in his trophy case very soon.

Until then he is the Yankee Yapping Ace of the Year. Congrats CC!

*Note: CC has won this award for the second year in a row!

 

Yankee Yapping Best Trade Deadline Pickup

Winner: Kerry Wood


Wood was a great pickup.   

When the trade deadline neared the end, the Yankees picked up three notable players: Lance Berkman, Austin Kearns, and Kerry Wood. Without a doubt, Wood has made the best impact of all three players.

Wood was the Cleveland Indians’ closer and the Yankees needed to add a reliever to aid their scuffling bullpen. Suffice it to say, they added the right man. Wood has posted a low ERA in pinstripes and has really become a solid arm in relief.

Throughout his career, Wood has taken a lot of criticism because of his injuries; I am sure the Yankees knew about that when they traded for him. However, he was a former National League Rookie of the Year (1998, with the Chicago Cubs) and certainly possessed the capability to change the atmosphere of the bullpen.

It’s almost as if when Wood arrived, things started to turn around for them.

I remember his first outing as a Yankee against the Tampa Bay Rays. When Wood tossed that knee-buckling breaking ball and caught Evan Longoria looking like a deer in headlights, I knew right then and there he would fit in right away.

And he has.

Looking at his last 10 appearances alone is proof of that: 10 innings, no runs, four hits, five walks, 12 strikeouts, and an ERA of 0.00. He has flourished in his role as a late-inning relief pitcher and if he keeps it moving, he will be a wonderful asset when the playoffs begin.

Congrats Kerry!

 

Yankee Yapping Reliever of the Year

Winner: David Robertson

David Robertson battled back & earned it.

I know what everyone is thinking: how in the world could I have not awarded this honor to Mariano Rivera?! I would just like to say that The Great Rivera is his own “Walking Award,” so-to-speak. Rivera won it last year and he followed that up with another Mo-like season.

32 saves and a puny 1.32 ERA. Typical Mo.

But I am giving it to David Robertson simply because of how far he has come this year. At the outset of the season, Robertson could not get anyone out. He was placed in easy-going situations and lost control of everything.

Case-in-point: Opening Day vs. the Los Angeles Angels.

Robertson came into the game in a situation where there was absolutely no pressure; the Yankees were ahead 7-1 in the top of the ninth inning and he allowed that pressure get to him. He wound up surrendering a grand slam to Bobby Abreu and he nearly gave up the game because of it.

Yet, what struck me was what he said the day after it happened. I remember reading in the news the next day that he grabbed his glove before the game and had two words:

“New day.”

That’s precisely the attitude that won him this award. Well, that and his 67 strikeouts in 59 2/3 innings pitched this season. He never gave up, battled back from defeat, and is a solid and trustworthy arm out of the bullpen.

He deserves the honor. Congrats David!

 

Yankee Yapping Warrior Award

Winner: Mark Teixeira

Tex is a warrior.

As I mentioned before, Mark Teixeira began the season awfully slow. He was singled out on ESPN and every other sports media outlet about how he was not producing along with being criticized for his low batting average and meager power numbers.

But by around June it all changed and the sleeping giant woke up.

The power-hitting first baseman flipped the “on switch” and quickly became the dangerous hitter he has always been. Teixeira will finish 2010 with over 30 home runs and 100 RBIs for his second straight year in pinstripes.

He has 33 home runs and 107 RBIs at press time.

The reason he is regarded as a warrior is because he has been playing for a number of days, possibly even weeks, with a broken toe. Despite a relatively painful injury, he managed to keep himself in the lineup and at first base every day.  

Obviously playing in pain, Teixeira maintained his season and never let it affect him; Paul O’Neill, revered as the consummate “Yankee Warrior,” would certainly be proud of him.

Congrats Tex!

 

Yankee Yapping Grand Slam Champion

Winner: Alex Rodriguez

Grand Slam Man: A-Rod.

Whip out the mustard and rye: it’s grand salami!

Not once. Not twice. But three times this season Alex Rodriguez has delivered with the bases loaded. The former three-time AL MVP clobbered three grand slams this season, which accounts for 3/10 of the Yankees’ grand slams this year.

In fact, the Yankees tied their single season record for grand slams, originally set in 1987–Don Mattingly led the Yanks that year with six grannies out of their 10.

On May 14, Rodriguez visited granny for the first time this season. Minnesota Twins reliever intentionally walked Teixeira to pitch to Rodriguez–a strategy that never seems to pay off, according to the numbers. The Yankee third baseman responded by crushing a go-ahead grand slam over the left field wall to give the Yanks a 7-4 edge.

They went on to win 8-4.

On May 31, merely 17 days after the slam vs. the Twins, A-Rod stepped up to the plate against the Indians. With a full count, Rodriguez smashed a bomb into Monument Park, a glorious grand slam home run to give the Yanks a 6-1 lead over the Tribe.

Once again the Bombers cruised to a victory, 11-2 over Cleveland.

Rodriguez struck one last slam on July 6 in Oakland vs. the Athletics. A-Rod helped slam the Yanks to a 6-1 win. He came up in the top of the third and blasted a grand slam off Trevor Cahill, driving in four out of the Yankees’ five runs that inning.

In addition to his slam, Rodriguez later came up in the sixth and hit a solo homer, as he knocked in five of the Yanks’ six runs by himself.

A-Rod’s excellence and ability to come through when the bases are loaded earned him this award. Hopefully he can continue to rake when the postseason starts.

Congrats Alex!

 

Well that does it for this year. Either way it goes, the Yankees have an opportunity to repeat as World Champs. While whether they win it all or not remains to be seen, it’s clear these standout players made a difference in New York this season.

Congrats to all the Yankee Yapping Award winners and to all of the Yankees.

We’ll see you in October. Good luck!

You Know You’re a REAL Yankee Fan When…

 

Big Game James beat us yesterday

 

Yesterday the New York Yankees dropped the rubber game of a three game series against the Tampa Bay Rays, a 3-0 shutout at the hands of “Big Game” James Shields. 7 1/3 innings, no runs, four hits, one walk, and 11 strikeouts later, the Yankees lose.

 

The Bronx Bombers’ lead over Tampa Bay in the American League Eastern Division is now only one game, signifying a likely “two horse race” down the stretch run and into September. The Yanks and Rays own the two best records in the majors and both teams can and probably will make the playoffs.

 

While the Yanks lost, their cross-town rivals, the New York Mets, were beaten 14-1 by the National League West’s worst team, the Arizona Diamondbacks.

 

Mets lost too 

 

Ed, one of my close friends from high school who happens to be a devout Mets fan, proclaimed his disgust at the team and how poor their play has recently been. I suggested to him that he switch sides, and I said he should become a Yankee fan.

 

“Come to the good side, and soon you’ll be having dreams of pinstripes, strong, winning seasons, and World Series Championships.”

 

Ed responded, “Oh, you mean the dark side? I think I’ll trust the force and try to will the Mets to victory!”

 

I have to tip my cap to him. He is a true fan. Even when I tempted him, which (to him) must have been like the Devil tempting Jesus Christ, he stood by his team. He has been a Mets fan his whole life and he will never disrespect his loyalty to his favorite team.

 

The whole exchange with Ed got me thinking…what makes a real fan, and more particularly, what makes a true Yankee fan?

 

Here are some ways (that I came up with) to tell if you are a REAL Yankee fan.

 

You know you’re a REAL Yankee fan when…

 

You (at least try) to watch every game

 

 


Real fans watch ALL the games. 

Let’s face it: following the team religiously is an important aspect of being a true fan.

 

The best part of my night during the baseball season is tuning into the YES Network and enjoying a Yankee game. Things can get difficult with work and in recent years school, and sometimes I am not able to watch every inning. But rest assured, even when I can’t watch the games, I constantly check my phone for updates, box scores, and stats.

 

Even when I can’t physically see what’s happening, I know what’s happening.

 

What really annoyed me last year were all the “Yankee fans” who watched maybe 30 innings during the regular season celebrate the World Series victory, as if they followed the team throughout the year. They probably only knew the key players, like Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez.

 

Which leads into my next point…

 

 

You know all of the Yankee players, even the most obscure ones

 

 


If you know these guys, you're a REAL fan 

Everyone knows the brand name players, like Jeter, Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, and Mariano Rivera. They are the faces of the Yankees organization and can easily be recognized by even the most distant Yankee fan. Any person who claims to be a Yankee fan can tell you who these players are.

 

But what about Ramiro Pena or Colin Curtis? David Robertson and Alfredo Aceves?

 

If you ask a Yankee fan who these players are and they have no idea, then there is no way they are a real fan. Knowledge of every player–even the lesser-known ones–is a must in terms of being a real Yankee fan.

 

And it doesn’t just mean lesser-known players from this year.

 

For example, back in 2005, the Yanks had two starting pitchers to fill in for a banged up rotation; one by the name of Aaron Small the other by the name of Shawn Chacon. Combined, these hurlers went 17-3 and helped lead the Yankees to the A.L. East title, which they won on the second-to-last day of the ’05 season.

 

Any real Yankee fan would and very well should know that.

 

 

You own a decent amount of Yankee Memorabilia

 

 


A very small sample of my Yankee collection 

Support of the team is important. One of the best ways to show your allegiance, if not the best, is wear your team’s colors with pride. I, for one, wear a Yankee necklace which I only take off before I shower.

 

I also own a wide variety of Yankee merchandise, including seven pinstripe jerseys, hats, pennants, bobble heads, framed photos…you name it, I probably have it. Come to think of it, a friend actually once asked me if I own any other clothing that doesn’t have an interlocking NY on it.

 

Although it doesn’t seem like it, I do have clothes that are not Yankee related.

 

I am not saying a real Yankee fan has to be as hardcore about it as I am; I am a special case! But the fact is that a real Yankee fan will, at least once in awhile, wear a Yankee shirt or a Yankee hat.

 

There is no way (in good conscience) a real Yankee fan can’t wear a Yankee shirt once in awhile.  

 

 

You know the history between the Yankees and the Boston Red Sox

 

 


Yankees/Red Sox...biggest rivalry in sports 

With every great team comes a great adversary.

 

For as long as there has been baseball, there has been a heated rivalry between the Yankees and Red Sox. There have been brutal fights, players who have switched sides, and countless numbers of classic games played between the two teams.

 

In my lifetime, there are two games between the Yankees and Red Sox that stand out as being the absolute greatest. The first was on July 1, 2004. Both teams left everything they had on the diamond, as evidenced by Jeter’s effort diving into the stands to make a play. The Red Sox were trying to avoid a three game sweep and the Yankees were trying to complete the sweep.

 

Neither team wanted to lose.

 

The Red Sox took a 4-3 the lead in the top of the 13th inning, setting up an improbable comeback win for the Yanks in the bottom of the frame. Miguel Cairo doubled to score Ruben Sierra (again, going back to the idea of knowing who the obscure players are) to tie the game, and John Flaherty (who now works for the YES Network) drove in the winning run to give the Yankees a win.

 

 


Flaherty wins it! 

What a game. I’ll never forget it.

 

The second all-time best Yankees-Red Sox battle (for me) was Oct. 16, 2003–Game Seven of the 2003 American League Championship Series. The ALCS was knotted at three games apiece, and the Yanks and BoSox went through hell to get to the final game.

 

The winner of Game Seven was given a one-way ticket to the World Series, the loser was going home.

 

Boston looked to be in complete command of everything in the fourth inning. They had jumped out to a 4-0 lead and knocked Yankees’ starter Roger Clemens out of the game. Jason Giambi cut into the Red Sox lead with two solo home runs, but David Ortiz smacked a long ball of his own, giving the BoSox a 5-2 edge heading into the bottom of the eighth inning.

 

I watched that game at home, biting my fingernails and trembling in fear. I thought the Yankees were doomed. My thought process in the middle of the eighth inning was, “The Yankees would be the ones walking back in shame and the Red Sox were going to the World Series.”

 

But the Empire struck back in the bottom of the frame.

 

Jeter doubled. Bernie Williams singled. Hideki Matsui doubled. Jorge Posada blooped a single to center field. Just like that, the game was tied. It was the best comeback and by far the most unbelievable game I had ever seen–and it wasn’t even over yet!

 

Boston, five defensive outs from embarrassing the Yankees, blew the lead and they headed into extras.

 

In the bottom of the 11th inning Aaron Boone was due up first. I remember thinking to myself, “He’s not going to do anything. He isn’t a power hitter.” But Alfonso Soriano and Derek Jeter were due up after Boone, and I prayed one of them would at least get on base.

 

 


What a moment. 

My thoughts were soon proven wrong, as Boone came up and hammered the first pitch he saw for a game-winning home run to win the A.L. Pennant for the Yankees. It was the most glorious home run I had ever seen and one of the most meaningful; very rarely will you ever see a walk-off home run to cap off a game of that magnitude.

 

“There’s a fly ball deep to left! It’s on its way! There it goes…AND THE YANKEES ARE GOING TO THE WORLD SERIES! AARON BOONE HAS HIT A HOME RUN!”

 

Those words still resonate with me to this day.  

 

There are plenty of other games and moments in Yankee-Red Sox history. But those two stand out as my favorites. If you are a real Yankee fan, you can recollect moments from the rivalry as vividly I have.

 

 

 

You know about the Yankee Stadium Regulars

 

 


Bald Vinny! 

At Yankee Stadium, the home of the New York Yankees since 1923…well, 2009 if you count the new Stadium…in any case, the Bronx is where Yankees play. If you go to a Yankee game, there are certain traditions and loyalists who are always at the ballpark to root for the Yanks.

 

The most loyal fan I can really think of is Vinny Milano, A.K.A. “Bald Vinny” of the right field Bleacher Creatures. He conjures up all the fans in the right field bleachers and leads them in a roll call right after the first pitch of the game is thrown. They yell out to every Yankee on the field until they are given some sort of acknowledgment, whether it is a pose or wave.

 

The roll call has become a staple of Yankee Stadium, and the real Yankee fans know about Bald Vinny and how important he has become to Yankee Stadium.

 

 


Freddy Sez 

Another Stadium regular is Freddy Schumann, an older fan who is commonly known as “Freddy Sez.” He walks around Yankee Stadium with a pan painted with a four-leaf clover on it. Attached to the pan is generally a sign that has some sort of encouraging words on it directed at the Yankees.

 

Freddy also carries a spoon, which is used to bang on the pan. The sound of the spoon on the pan makes a distinctive noise which can be heard throughout the whole Stadium. He always allows the fans around him to bang on the pan, in attempt to stimulate a Yankee rally.

 

Bald Vinny and Freddy Sez are the number one Yankee fans I know. If you don’t know them, you really don’t know the Yankees very well, or at least not Yankee Stadium.

 

And the last and probably most important part of being a real Yankee fan…

 

 

You Know Your Yankee History

 

 


History lesson 

Knowledge is power.

 

If you are a real Yankee fan, you know the background on the team. Everyone knows they are the winningest team in sports history with 27 World Titles. But do they know how many times the Yankees have been to the World Series? Do they know which Yankee player has the most World Series rings? Do they know all the retired numbers?

 

Only true fans know that the Yankees have been to the World Series 40 times, Yogi Berra has the most World Series titles as a Yankee (with 10) and there are 16 retired numbers–I can name them all, right off the top of my head.

 

But naming them all is much too vulgar a display of Yankee intelligence.

 

 


Retired numbers 

 

Knowing the background of the players is just as important as knowing the background of the team. There are many ways to learn about each player. Interviews, Yankeeography documentaries, and feature stories in sports magazines are probably the easiest ways to increase knowledge about players.

 

For instance, I read a story about former Yankee ace Chien-Ming Wang in Sports Illustrated a couple of years ago. By reading that feature story, I found out Wang learned his sinker from the Yankees went he came over from Taiwan. One of his pitching coaches in the minor leagues showed him how to hold the ball, and from there he was able to shut the opposition down.

 

He worked his way up and became the number one Yankee starter.

 

 


Chien-Ming Wang's journey through baseball has been documented 

Yet Wang’s pitching style wasn’t the only thing I learned about from that story. I learned about his life. According to the article, he is (or at least at the time was) revered as Taiwan’s number one athlete; he is a superstar over there. He could not even walk down the street without getting mobbed by legions of fans.

 

But when he walked down the street in New York City, he was hardly recognized. He felt there was less pressure on him in New York, and that is why he opted to stay there instead of going back to pitch in his native land. That also explains why he was so relaxed as a member of the Yanks and never looked rattled or uneasy when he pitched.

 

The article on Wang is a perfect example of how to learn about players in an easy way. It was an informative article, pointing out a lot of “You may have not known, but now you do” facts about his life and career.

 

If you are a real Yankee fan, learning about the players is equally as important as team history.

 

 

 

 

Real Yankees fans rule. Bandwagoners suck.

 

These are merely a few ways to tell if you are a real Yankee fan. Bandwagon fans can always be told apart from the hardcore ones, simply by conversation. If you talk to someone who claims to be a Yankee fan (or a fan of anything, for that matter) and has no idea about key aspects of the team, then, in my eyes, they aren’t true fans.

 

I tend to respect the true fans more than those who just root the Yankees on when they win, a la last fall. It’s easier to respect true fans’ opinions when they have more knowledge and follow the team closely. It’s also easier to hold a conversation with the real fans than the bandwagon fans.

 

Nothing annoys me more when I hear people give me false Yankee info.

 

The bottom line is that if you are going to be a Yankee fan, be a real fan. Watch more than 30 innings a year, know about the players, and know about the Stadium. Know what the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry means and wear a Yankee hat once in awhile, in undying support of your favorite baseball team.

 

If you want to be a real fan, then KNOW the Yankees. And if you don’t know them, then don’t act like you do.    

Independence Day Weekend in Cooperstown

“The other sports are just sports. Baseball is a love.“–Bryant Gumbel.

 

And God, do I love baseball. This weekend just increased my love for it.

 


I visited the Hall of Fame this weekend  

 

Saturday I had the pleasure of going all the way up to Cooperstown, N.Y. to visit the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Last week, my best friends David and Vito made me an offer for my birthday/graduation gift: Yankee tickets for Saturday’s game vs. the Toronto Blue Jays (which the Yanks won 11-3) or a day trip to the hall.

 

I have already been to three Yankee games this season and will probably go to more by season’s end. I have only been to the Hall of Fame and Museum once in my life; Memorial Day weekend in 2007 with my dad.

 

Now given the opportunity to share the experience with my best friends, I took them up on their offer to Cooperstown; a three hour road trip to upstate New York. To me, there was no better way to spend part of the Independence Day weekend.

 

When we arrived to Cooperstown, I felt the same way I did back in ’07. The town itself is small and gives you such an old-time feel. Complete with a General Store and even a trolley service, Main Street in Cooperstown, simply put, is awesome.

 

Trolley!! 

 

The one gripe I really have against Main Street is the food spots. There aren’t too many places to eat up there, at least not many of you want to eat something quickly. As a matter of fact, my friends and I ate at the same restaurant my dad and I ate at the last time I visited Cooperstown.

 

Not that the food is bad, it’s great. But not having fast food spots around just is not convenient when you want to move things along and see all the sights in one day. But I guess that goes with the old-time ambience; there was no such thing as McDonald’s back in the old days.

 

After we finished our lunch, my friends and I headed for the Museum. It was just as nice as I remember it; the big brick building at the end of the road filled with historical baseball artifacts from all over the world. More importantly, it’s filled with more historic Yankee memorabilia than you could ever imagine.

 

When we first walked in, the usher told us that the best place to start the tour was on the third floor of the museum. We ascended the stairs and right away it was almost as if the baseball history slapped us across the face. We were immediately greeted with the origin of baseball and how the game came to be.

 

One of my favorite parts about the “first origins of baseball exhibit” were the artifacts about Henry Chadwick. According the Museum, Chadwick was the “Father of Baseball” and reported on the sport for several newspapers. He dedicated his whole life to sports writing, and as an aspiring sports writer myself, I have to respect that and give him a lot of credit.

 

 


Henry Chadwick--baseball writer/pioner. 

Without Chadwick, no baseball writer would be where they are today. For the record, Chadwick’s column was called Chadwick’s Chat. I think it is very cool title. It has the alliterative grammar quality, just like Yankee Yapping.

 

Next we entered the Babe Ruth Room at the Museum. Yes, the Babe Ruth Room. The Bambino had such an impact on the game of baseball that he owns his own private quarters in the hall.

 

On display are many of his jerseys, trophies, his cleats, and even the bat he smacked his final career home run with. While you visit the Babe Ruth Room, a video about his life plays, which really makes it a learning experience.

 

 


Babe Ruth Room!! 

After Ruth’s Room we embarked on the “Pride and Passion” leg of the journey. On display–basically everything you can think of from every Yankee legend there is. We saw Babe Ruth’s crown (given to him by Ralph Kiner) Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, and Mickey Mantle’s jerseys, the bat Roger Maris hit his 61st home run with in 1961, and even Yogi Berra’s Most Valuable Player Award from 1951.

 


Pride & Passion 

 

It was overwhelming! A lot of Yankee history to take in all at once.

 

Eventually the Yankee memorabilia turned from old to contemporary. We moved on from relics of the ghosts of long past and onto the pinstripe mementos of the not-so-distant past.

 

Newer yankee gear 

 

On display were Derek Jeter’s spikes from the 1996 World Series, Mariano Rivera’s jersey from the 1999 World Series, and even a lineup card used by Joe Torre in 1998–the year the Bronx Bombers won 114 regular season games and eventually the Championship.

 

Also on display was the 1996 World Series trophy. One thought about that, however. I’m not sure if it was the actual trophy or a replica of the trophy. Today at Yankee Stadium, that trophy was on display in honor of George Steinbrenner, as it was his birthday and the Yanks won that title under him as principal owner. Did they take that trophy from Cooperstown and get it to Yankee Stadium for today’s game? Is there more than one trophy?

 

Who knows. Whatever the case, I took a picture with it.

 

'96 Trophy....? 

 

After the “Pride and Passion” exhibit, we went into a room filled with pieces of old Stadiums. We got a feel for what Ebbets Field looked like, saw one of the original pinwheels from Comiskey Park in Chicago, and sat in old seats from Veteran’s Stadium in Philadelphia. Also showcased was the Phillies Phanatic…well, at least his costume.

 

In 2007 I remembered taking a picture of me pretending to smack the Phanatic with my program. I recreated the same picture yesterday.

 

Nothing's changed...then & now. 

 

We then entered the records room; a place reserved to acknowledge all the records held by active and retired players.

 

For example, Jeter is currently playing and leads all active players in the hits category. Pete Rose, on the other hand, is retired and owns the record for most all-time hits.

 

Jeter's the leader 

 

Same thing goes for Alex Rodriguez and Ricky Henderson; Rodriguez leads all current players in runs scored while Henderson is the all-time leader in runs scored.

 

It’s very fascinating and the museum seems to keep the record walls up-to-date.  

 

After that we came to the “Autumn Glory” room. It is packed with World Series and postseason knick-knacks. The museum owns a ring from every World Series Championship team since rings began being distributed. Of course I spotted the Yankee rings from the Dynasty of the late ’90s and I really thought it was one of the better parts of the tour.

 

After all, winning isn’t everything. It’s just the only thing that matters. Win the World Series and your team’s ring gets a one-way ticket to enshrinement in the Hall.

 

 


That's a lotta World Series bling. 

I noticed in ’07 that the case in the “Autumn Glory” room contains mementos from the most recent World Series. So when I visited the Hall of Fame in 2007, artifacts from the 2006 World Series (played between the St. Louis Cardinals and Detroit Tigers) were showcased.

 

If my memory serves me correct, the Yankees won the latest World Series. Therefore, a bunch of items from the 2009 World Series were on display, including CC Sabathia’s cleats, Hideki Matsui’s Game Six bat, and Jose Molina’s catcher’s mask.

 

2009 World Series showcase 

 

But the item in the case that stood out like sore thumb…the 2009 Championship ring.

 

 


2009 FOREVER. 

That’s what it’s all about.

 

After the “Autumn Glory” room, we entered the “No-Hit Games” exhibit. Showcased were baseballs used in practically every no-hitter and perfect game in history.

 

I was able to pick out David Wells’s and David Cone’s baseballs; both Yankee hurlers tossed perfect games; Wells in 1998 and Cone in 1999. Not only was each ball signed by the pitcher, but information on the score and opponent was given in a card underneath the ball.

 

Again, it all goes back to idea of learning and preserving history.

 

We came across one last Yankee portion of the museum before we entered the Hall of Fame: an exhibit entitled “Pinstripe Pictures.” There were so many photos of so many memorable Yankee moments that I almost cried. Everything from Aaron Boone’s blast in Game Seven of the ’03 ALCS to Gehrig and DiMaggio, it was amazing.

 

 


Cone perfect in '99 

Probably the best picture I saw was the Yankees lifting Cone up on their shoulders after his perfecto in ’98. I couldn’t help but think of the words used by Buster Olney in his book about it:

 

“Cone’s teammates lifted him after his perfect game on July 18, 1999. Throughout the season, in more subtle ways, he lifted them.”

 

I think that really speaks to Cone’s character. He was always one of my favorites.

 

Once we were finished looking at all the Yankee pictures, we finally came to the Hall of Fame Plaque Gallery. Every member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame is honored and remembered with a plaque with their likeness and a short description of their career accomplishments. We found all the Yankees and read about each player.

 

Legend. 

 

Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Mantle, Berra, Jackson, Gossage…if you were to ask me, the Yankees virtually own the Hall of Fame. They have more members than any other team, and the reason for that is their history; the Yankees are the best and more storied team in baseball history. That’s pretty much the bottom line.

 

 


The Mick 

Once we were finished in the gallery, we headed upstairs to the final leg of our tour: a view of the Writer’s Wing of the hall (which I one day hope to be a part of), the library atrium, and the “Baseball at the Movies” exhibit, where they listed every baseball movie ever made.

 

My favorite part of the Writer’s Wing was the setup of the announcing booth in the old Yankee Stadium. The Museum (in a devilishly clever way) built a mock announcer’s box, which gives you a sense of what it feels like to be a baseball broadcaster.

 

The booth! 

 

It’s such a neat feature they added to the Writer’s Wing of the hall and I can only hope one day I get to sit and work in the real reporting booth at Yankee Stadium.

 

We headed outside and looked at the crazy statues that are in the hall’s courtyard. There are some interesting likenesses of old-time pitchers and catchers. These statues really afforded me and my friends the opportunity to snap some funny-looking pictures. For instance, the statue of Satchel Paige and his high leg kick…

 

 


It didn't hurt. 

Go ahead and laugh. That’s why I took the photo.

 

We then took a walk down the road and visited Doubleday Field, the supposed birthplace of baseball. We jaunted inside the ballpark and wouldn’t you know it, a game was going on. We sat and watched about four innings of baseball from the grandstands. A small crowd was on hand; the building was nowhere near filled.

 


Doubleday Field! 

 

Last time I visited Cooperstown in ’07, I only got to see the exterior of the park. I was elated that I finally got to see the interior and even watch some a game that just happened to begin the minute we arrived at the park. I have to say, it’s a nice little field. And again, it’s one of the most historic parks in baseball lore.

 

beautiful ballpark 

 

After we paid our visit to Doubleday Field, we (lastly) traveled to the Cooperstown Baseball Heroes Wax Museum. I had gone back in ’07 and enjoyed enough that I wanted to go again, not to mention Dave and Vito wanted to see it for themselves.

 

The Wax Museum was again a wonderful experience. There are wax figures of many Yankees, including Mantle, DiMaggio (along with Marilyn Monroe), Wade Boggs (riding off on the horse like he did at the conclusion of the ’96 World Series) and countless others.

 

The Georges 

 

Yet my favorite sculpture has to be “The Georges.” The wax museum crafted a figure to look like George Costanza, Jason Alexander’s character from Seinfeld. George is sitting in his office opposite George Steinbrenner, his boss on the show. Costanza is one of my all-time favorite TV characters and to see the figures setup the way they were made me laugh.

 

Who's on First??? 

 

Another one of my favorites was the Abbot & Costello “Who’s on First” figures. They even had the words from the comedy routine playing on a speaker in the background as you viewed the statues. Believe it or not, that comedy bit is a huge part of baseball history; it is so funny that it has withstood the test of time and is still remembered by die-hard baseball lovers, such as myself.

 

After we saw everything there is to see in Cooperstown, we headed back to the car; another three hour ride ahead of us. I can say that I got the same amount out of the experience of the National Baseball Hall of Fame the second time, probably even more.

 

After I went in ’07 with my dad, I thought to myself, “Going to Cooperstown was incredible, and it was very meaningful to share this experience with dad. I’d like to go back eventually and share it with my best friends.”

 

I got that chance and I jumped at it. And what an experience it was. One I won’t forget. As a result of this trip, my love for baseball just increased by tenfold, if that’s even possible.     

The Times, They Are A-Changin’ Part I

Here we are on June 11, 60 games into the 2010 MLB season. The New York Yankees are currently sitting in second place in the American League Eastern Division standings. The only team standing between the Bronx Bombers and first place is the Tampa Bay Rays.

 

Through 60 games last season, the Yanks were 34-26 while this year they are 37-23. In terms of their record, the team is doing three games better this year than they were this far into last year’s campaign. But the record is just the record. The numbers are just the numbers.

 

Is this the same team we saw in 2009?

 

The answer is no.

 

As I have noticed the differences between ’09 and ’10, I will be writing a multiple-part blog over the next few days pointing out what is different in terms of the Yankees, whether it is good or bad. For the first part, I opted to write about…

 

The Core Four

 

 


The Core Four Yankees...how much longer...? 

The first thing I have noticed a difference in…well, in some ways.

 

Although Derek Jeter is still a god in New York, there’s no denying the fact that his age is (just about) catching up to him. He can still hit, as evidenced by his .296 batting average this season, but on defense he looks more off than I can ever remember seeing him.

 

Jeter can still make beautiful web gems–I haven’t forgotten about his amazing jump throw on May 26 against the Minnesota Twins. But his lateral range is just not what is used to be. According to many people I have talked to, he was never the greatest defender anyway.

 

Jeter's range has gone down, but he is still a beast 

 

I never believed that. Jeter’s Gold Gloves and patented mid-air spin speak for themselves. Unlike last year however, (so far) this year he has not looked like the Jeter of old. He only has three errors this year and last year he only committed eight, which isn’t a bad number.

 

Jeter is who he is. As Ozzie Guillen, manager of the Chicago White Sox, said earlier this season, “Jeter is god. Who wouldn’t want him on their team?” He is right; there really is not anything bad I can say about the Captain. It’s almost taboo as a Yankee fan to badmouth or try to negate Jeter’s credibility.  

 

While this is true, it is apparent Jeter is aging–which has nothing to do with how good he is, it’s just a fact of life and what unfortunately happens to all of us! The Yankee Captain will be 36 by the end of the month and I just wonder how many more years he has left in him.

 

Then there’s Jorge Posada.

 

The Yankee catcher was injured on May 16, taking a foul ball off his foot behind the plate and sustaining a fracture. He went to the 15-day disabled list and missed about two weeks before returning to the lineup on June 2–as a designated hitter.

 


Posada has not caught since coming back from the DL  
 

 

Since coming back from his injury, Posada has not caught a game and has been relegated to the DH spot–a spot he has not been very productive in. In the eight games he has played upon his return, the 38 year-old catcher (who will be 39 in August) has only collected three hits in 27 at-bats.

 

Meanwhile, Francisco Cervelli has been clipping together a decent season in Posada’s absence. The 24 year-old is currently hitting .280. Even though he does not hit for power and has no homers, he has 25 RBIs on the year.

 

Looking at it statistically, Cervelli is hitting four points higher than Posada for average and has 10 more runs batted in. Not only that, but it seems Cervelli is becoming the likely candidate to succeed Posada. There was a stretch where Cervelli caught nine games in a row before Joe Girardi had to plug the other backup catcher Chad Moeller behind the plate.

 

I remember once thinking to myself, “Who does Cervelli think he is? The starting catcher?!”

 

But hey, it has not been a bad thing. Cervelli has done a wonderful job and possesses great offensive numbers with two outs and runners in scoring position. I can only hope he generates a little bit more power and knocks some homers out of the park.

 

Francisco Cervelli has filled in well for Jorge 

 

As for Posada, I hope he can remain healthy. In recent years he has certainly had his share of injuries and it is perfectly understandable. After all, he is playing arguably the most difficult position on the field; catchers have to take the most abuse and punishment of all baseball players.

 

After 2011 Posada’s contract is up and he will be 40. Will he be a Yankee after next year? Will he be able to catch every day? Will he retire?

 

All of these questions remain to be seen. But any way it goes, things will be different. And as far as the Yankee catching situation goes at press time, in some ways they already are. Posada has not been an everyday catcher

 

Now onto Mariano Rivera.

 

A lot of people might say really the only thing that has changed about the Great Rivera is his age. From ’09-’10 Rivera turned from 39 to 40 years of age.

 

But if you remember back on April 30, Rivera made a relief appearance against the Chicago White Sox. He suffered an apparent rib injury in his left side and did not make another appearance for over a week after he got hurt.

 

 


Mo was out for over a week last month 

I don’t remember him ever getting injured like that last season or missing an extended period of time the way he did last month. At the beginning of the season he was asked whether or not he would keep playing beyond 2010, seeing as how his contract expires at the end of the year and of course considering his age.

 

He said he does not yet know what his plans are and that he will decide after the season is over. The Yankees do however need to start thinking about what to do when Rivera’s playing days are up or if he does not come back to the team next year–whatever the reason may be.

 

I have a bad feeling that if the Yankees do not make the right choices, Rivera will not be the closer next year. Worse off, they won’t find a suitable replacement for him and they could be reduced to a “closer-by-committee” situation. One day it could be Joba Chamberlain, the next it could be David Robertson, and so on and so forth.

 

Surely nobody wants that to happen. If Rivera decides to play again, I think the Yanks need to get him back, or at least show him respect by making him a generous offer.

 

Yet, it’s not like they really went full throttle after Hideki Matsui this past off-season. Matsui was a Yankee for seven years, was a fan-favorite, respected by the entire organization, and (oh, by the way) the reigning World Series Most Valuable Player.

 

He did so much for the Yankees during his tenure in pinstripes. Matsui was beloved, and helped the team regain the title. What worries me is that the Yanks did not go for him and he is close to four years younger than Rivera.  

 

Who knows what will happen at the end of the season. We will have to wait until it plays out, but if and when Rivera leaves, what happens next? This upcoming off-season we will get the answer.

 

Last but never the least, Andy Pettitte.

 

 


Andy Pettitte is 7-1 this season 

Despite his age of 37 (he will turn 38 on June 15 {which is also my birthday!}) Pettitte is putting together a remarkable year. If he wins tonight against his former team the Houston Astros, Pettitte will own a powerful record of 8-1 on the year.

 

He currently has a 2.47 ERA, which is good for third in the American League behind David Price of the Rays and Doug Fister of the Seattle Mariners.

 

Pettitte was however taken out of the game on May 5 vs. the Baltimore Orioles with inflammation in his left elbow. He tossed five innings and registered the win, but was forced to miss a following start because of the injury.

 

Another concern is the fact that Pettitte has been on the disabled list five times in his career, all as a result of problems in his pitching elbow. Since he skipped the start after leaving on May 5 there haven’t been any more problems or concerns with Pettitte.

 

Barring a catastrophe or any more pitching problems though, Pettitte looks like he will be an asset to the Yankees down the stretch run, which is no surprise. He has been doing it for years and years; pitching in big games and always coming up big when it matters most. But again the question comes up:

 

How much longer can he keep it up? He only signed on for one year at the outset of the season and like Rivera, his future is up in the air at the moment. He is unsure whether or not he is going to pitch or pack it in after 2010.

 

Pettitte’s age and his desire to spend more time with his family have long been a topic of discussion in terms of his career. Even before he returned to the Yankees in 2007 many analysts and baseball writers speculated as to whether or not he would call it quits and retire or keep going.

 

Obviously he opted to come back home to the Yankees where he started and he was welcomed with open arms. Since his comeback in ’07, Pettitte has been a rock in the Yankees’ rotation. This season things have not changed. But next year will they?

 

They say age is nothing but a number. It’s not about how old you are but about how old you feel. But considering the recent and apparent way things have been going for the “Core Four” Yankees, I have to disagree.

 

Age can and eventually will catch up, and we are beginning to see it amongst the most beloved Yankees of our era. This quartet of special Bombers can still get it done on the diamond, despite the obstacles they have had to hurdle this season.

 

But yet again I ask… how much longer can they do this….?

 


NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!  
 

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