Results tagged ‘ Ichiro ’

Makin’ Moves

Despite going 2-5 on their recent road trip which included a sweep at the hands of the suddenly “Moneyball” Oakland Athletics team, the Yankees still possess the best record in baseball at 59-39 and continue to sit atop the AL East, looking eight games down at the Baltimore Orioles and Tampa Bay Rays, and 10 1/2 games down at the Toronto Blue Jays and Boston Red Sox.

A number of things have happened in Yankees Universe and the baseball world in general these past couple of days. Therefore in the spirit of old-fashioned blogging, I figured I would give some thoughts, opine on some topics, and even throw in a story or two – just for old time’s sake.

Ichiro Joins the Yankees

Before Monday’s series opener vs. the Mariners huge news broke via the Twitter wire: the Yankees had acquired Ichiro Suzuki from the Mariners in exchange for minor league pitchers D.J. Mitchell and Danny Farquhar.  

Just like that, Ichiro is a Yankee.

The news came as a shock to most Yankee fans, as well as me, seeing as how Ichiro spent his entire MLB career with the Mariners. Not only that, but the move was on no one’s radar; nobody saw it coming. It was obviously a trade General Manager Brian Cashman kept under wraps until it became official.

The first notion that entered everyone’s mind was the jersey number. Throughout his career Ichiro has always worn number 51, a number that has meant a lot to the Yankees – being that Bernie Williams wore it for 16 years in pinstripes.

To everyone’s relief, Ichiro chose to take 31, respecting Williams and the jersey number. Unfortunately Dave Winfield didn’t seem to take too kindly to Ichiro taking 31.

Right on, Dave.

In his first three games as a Yankee, Ichiro has collected three hits and has stolen a base. He hit eighth in the batting order in his first two games, and led off yesterday, showing his versatility in the lineup. Plug him in anywhere and he can still hit.

This was a good move for the Yankees. With Brett Gardner’s season over and Raul Ibanez and Andruw Jones signed to be designated hitters and fourth outfielders, the trade makes sense. The Mariners organization is becoming tailor-made for young players and the veteran Ichiro, 38, didn’t feel he fit in with them – hence why he requested the trade.

Hats off to the Mariners not only granting his wish, but commenting on how he deserves to a chance to win a title before his career ends. It’s obvious Seattle isn’t going anywhere this season while the Yankees, now with Ichiro’s help, could potentially go very far.

After the final out was made in yesterday’s 5-2 win over the M’s, Ichiro waved goodbye from right field to the Mariners faithful. The fans seemed heartbroken at the thought of their golden boy for so many years leaving town.

The sight of it all made me sad. I couldn’t help but remember the way I felt when Joe Torre managed his last game in October, 2007. When someone has meant so much to a franchise, I know first-hand that it’s extremely difficult to see them leave.

Alex Rodriguez out 6-8 Weeks

On Tuesday night in Seattle, Alex Rodriguez was beaned on the left hand during an at-bat in the eighth inning – the third HBP in the game (Ichiro and Derek Jeter had previously been plunked). Rodriguez fell to the dirt in agonizing pain and left the game.

Afterward it became known that A-Rod has a broken hand and will miss 6-8 weeks; the Yanks are hoping to have him back by the middle of September.

Losing A-Rod is a blow, but perhaps it’s better the Yankees lost him now as opposed to a time when they really needed him. For example, if this injury occurred in 2005 or 2007 when Rodriguez put the team on his back and carried it, the Yanks would be in serious trouble.

Thank God we live in the year 2012.

Because now there are several players who are capable of coming up in big spots to bring the runs home, like Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson, and Robinson Cano, among others. Not to mention in ’05 and ’07 the Yanks were constantly battling for first place, locked in a dogfight with the Red Sox for the division.

Obviously that’s not the case this year.

Although taking Rodriguez’s bat out of the lineup basically takes an offensive threat and a presence out of the Yankees’ arsenal, there’s more than enough power to compensate for it.  As far as defense is concerned, Ramiro Pena was called up to fill A-Rod’s roster spot and will obviously see time at third base along with Eric Chavez and yesterday’s hero, Jayson Nix.

There’s also speculation the Yankees might go after Chase Headley, the Padres’ third baseman, before the trade deadline on Tuesday. Headley, 28, is hitting .267 this year with 12 homers and 51 RBIs.

A-Rod looked devastated after the game; he was clearly not just in physical pain from the HBP and the fracture, but emotional pain as well. It was apparent the news of him missing more time due to another injury impacted his psyche and left him in disbelief, as evidenced by his words when he met with the press.

“It’s difficult; tough break,” he said, masked in a shell-shocked expression. “I never thought ‘fracture’ but it was. Tough blow. Tough blow.”

Rivalry Renewed

The Boston Red Sox will visit Yankee Stadium for the first time this season tomorrow night, as the Bombers and BoSox get set for a three-game weekend series. The last time these teams met, the Yankees took three of four from the Sox in Beantown.

The Red Sox are coming off a losing series to the Texas Rangers while the Yanks (as it’s known) just took two of three from the Mariners.  Aaron Cook (2-3, 3.50) will start for Boston tomorrow night while the Yanks will counter with Phil Hughes (9-8, 4.09 ERA). 

Saturday afternoon in a match-up of aces, CC Sabathia (10-3, 3.30 ERA) will toe the rubber, facing off with Jon Lester (5-8, 5.46 ERA). Finally on Sunday night, 10-game winner Hiroki Kuroda will gun for win number 11 – while Boston has not yet listed a starter for the finale.

MLB posed an excellent question a couple days ago:

Has the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry lost its luster?

Right now, I think it’s almost dormant. With Bobby Valentine shooting off his big mouth about Derek Jeter over the off-season, I thought for sure the rivalry would be ignited and something would happen this year; perhaps the boiling of some bad blood.

So far, however, nothing. But I suppose it’s not necessary when the Red Sox are AL East cellar dwellers and not pushing for first place at all. If Boston was in the pennant race, there might be more of a competitive element thrown into the mix.

Yet, it is clear that the days of A-Rod and Jason Varitek duking it out are long gone; Curt Schilling wanting to “make 55,000 people from New York shut up” is surely passé. It could take awhile – maybe even a number of years – before the Yankees and Red Sox go back to where they were in 2003, 2004, and even 2005.

Then again, you never know. It only takes one bean ball to start a fire.

Some Encouragement from Sandberg

As promised, I’ll throw in a little story to close this one.

The last time I blogged, I wrote about my experience covering the Hudson Valley Renegades, as most readers probably know by now, the same team I interned for.  I wound up covering them again last Friday after I saw “The Dark Knight Rises” (go see that movie if you haven’t yet done so).

Escaping damage in the ninth inning and with some eighth inning heroics, the Renegades beat the Aberdeen Ironbirds 3-2 – the Ironbirds being a farm team of the Baltimore Orioles, for the record.

After the game I went from the press box to the clubhouse and interviewed Jared Sandberg, the Renegades’ skipper, former Tampa Bay Devil Ray, and nephew of Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg.

Tampa Bay Rays’ 2011 first round draft pick Taylor Guerrieri once again started, and Sandberg actually noticed that I had been there for Guerrieri’s previous start.     

“You were here the last time Taylor pitched (against Mahoning Valley) weren’t you?” he asked me after the interview.

“Yes,” I answered.

Jokingly he looked at me and asked, “Oh, so you only cover the games Taylor pitches?”

I let out a chuckle and said, “Well, we’re a newsweekly with so many coverage areas, so there are a lot of games and only so many we can get to every week.”

Sandberg answered, “Oh, I understand. I was just kidding. Which paper are you with again?”

The Examiner,” I replied.

“Oh, I saw that article from last week!” he exclaimed. Frightened, I had no idea what he was going to say next.

 “That was really well-written and very nicely done; nice spread – and the pictures came out great, too.”

I thanked him and told my editor about it. He was happy Sandberg saw it and basically said, “Now the pressure’s on us. He might expect great articles from now on.”

Honestly though, I am having a great time covering this team. They are performing extremely well, and are in first place in their division in the New York-Penn League, ahead of the likes of the Brooklyn Cyclones and Staten Island Yankees.

I’m looking forward to covering more of their games and I’m anxious to see how they are going to finish. When I interned for them in 2010, they ended at 39-36, missing the playoffs. At 24-13 right now, it looks as if they will indeed eclipse their 2010 record and go who knows where.

Hopefully to a League title.

Bomber Busts: Worst Trades and Free Agent Signings

 

 

Lou Brock was traded for Ernie Broglio.

On June 15, 1964, The Chicago Cubs traded away left fielder Lou Brock to the St. Louis Cardinals for a right-handed pitcher named Ernie Broglio. Brock went on to enjoy an outstanding career; six All-Star selections, two World Series Championships, The Babe Ruth Award, The Roberto Clemente Award, his number 20 is retired by the Cards, and in 1985 he was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Not bad for a career’s work.

Broglio on the other hand…well. Not many people remember his name and he didn’t do much else with career after he was dealt to the Cubs. He finished his pitching career with a 77-74 record, a 3.74 ERA, and 849 strikeouts. His only accomplishment: winning the most games in the National League in 1960.

 

Broglio...who???

Who got the better end of that deal? The Cardinals, of course. Nowadays, whenever a lopsided trade occurs, in baseball terminology, it’s called a “Brock for Broglio.”

Being a devout Yankee fan, there are several instances (in my lifetime) I can think of when the Yankees either made a terrible trade or a bogus free agent signing. With the recent departure of Javier Vazquez, and in the spirit of “Free Agent Frenzy,” I got the idea to write about some of the worst moves the Yankees have made over the years.

So without any further ado, I give you my top Yankee trade/free agent busts.

Here we go…

Jay Buhner for Ken Phelps

 

Jay Buhner!

“What the hell did you trade Jay Buhner for? He had 30 home runs and over 100 RBIs last year. He’s got a rocket for an arm. You don’t know what the hell your doing!!!!”

On an episode of the TV show Seinfeld, George Costanza’s father Frank (played by Jerry Stiller) scolded George Steinbrenner for trading away a 23 year-old right fielder by the name of Jay Buhner.

The Yankees gave Buhner to the Seattle Mariners in July of 1988 along with two minor leaguers–Rich Balabon and Troy Evers–in exchange for Ken Phelps. To this day, the trade is considered by many fans to be one of the worst trades the Yankees ever made in their history.

A classic “Brock for Broglio,” no doubt.

Buhner went on to become an All-Star and win a Gold Glove in 1996, and in 2004 he was inducted into the Seattle Mariners Hall of Fame. As far as numbers are concerned, Buhner averaged almost 22 home runs per season after leaving the Yankees and knocked in over 100 runs for three consecutive seasons from 1995-97.

It is obvious Buhner established himself on both sides of the field and overall was an excellent player.

 

Who is this guy?

Phelps on the other hand just faded away. He had only caught Steinbrenner’s eye initially because he was able to hit 14 home runs in half a season–a feat the Yankee owner viewed as impressive. Unfortunately he gave away a player who went on to enjoy success and in return received a player who went on to become a nobody.

Now whenever someone mentions Phelps, he is remembered as “The guy that got traded for Jay Buhner.”

As a Yankee fan did losing Buhner upset me? Did watching him perform so well year after year against us annoy me because I knew he could have been doing it for us?

Yes and no.

I liked Buhner, even though he was on the Mariners. He had such poise and talent; he could swing a hot bat, could play stellar defense, and yes it was hard to watch him knowing he was once a Yankee.

 

Once a Yankee...

But at the same time, the Yankees had a pretty good right fielder of their own named Paul O’Neill–a man who earned the nickname “The Warrior” by Steinbrenner. Having O’Neill may have even been better than having Buhner.

 

Warrior

After all, O’Neill was a force in the Yankee Dynasty. Without him, the Yankees may not have won the title in 1996 and 1998-2000. O’Neill battled year in and year out and because of his work ethic, he helped guide the Yankees to the Championship.

And for as good as Buhner was, he never won a title. With O’Neill in right field, the Yankees did.

 

Hideki Irabu

 

what a bum.

You know things aren’t going well for you when your boss calls you a “Fat P—y Toad.” Hideki Irabu was called this name by Steinbrenner, simply because he did not cover first base on a ground ball–in Spring Training, no less. In fact, The Boss didn’t even allow his pitcher to travel with the team to Los Angeles after the incident because he was so infuriated.

That’s what you would call a serious “FML” experience.

The San Diego Padres had purchased Irabu’s contract in 1997 from the Chiba Lotte Marines of the Nippon Professional Baseball League in Japan. Believe it or not, his purchase led to the current format used today that MLB enacts to sign Japanese players. Without this deal, players like Ichiro, Hideki Matsui, Daisuke Matsuzaka, and Hiroki Kuroda would have never made it to the Majors.

Apparently Irabu wanted to act as much like a big-name superstar as he could, because he refused to sign with San Diego. What’s more, he stated he would only like to play for the Yankees.

That’s a bit egotistical, wouldn’t you say?

 

Terrible.

The Yankees eventually had to offer San Diego players in exchange for the rights to negotiate with Irabu. When it was all said and done, the Yanks gave up, $3 million, Rafael Medina, and Ruben Rivera (cousin of Mariano Rivera) for Homer Bush and the rights to Irabu–who was later signed by New York for $12.8 million over four years.  

A complicated exchange and one that never really did pay off.

The best season Irabu put up was 1998. His numbers:

·         13 wins

·         4.06 ERA

·         173 innings pitched

·         Two complete games

·         28 games started

Not exactly worth $12.8 million, if you ask me. I suppose the Yankees could have gotten a little more bang for their buck; or they at least could have signed him for less money.

 

LOL

Irabu collected two World Series rings (1998 and ’99) but didn’t even last all four years he was under contract with the Yankees.  After 1999, Irabu was traded to the Montreal Expos (now known to most fans as the Washington Nationals) for Ted Lilly, Christian Parker, and Jake Westbrook. He finished his MLB career with a 34-35 record, a 5.15 ERA and 405 lifetime Ks.

And much like the Buhner trade, Irabu was spoofed on Seinfeld for his poor performance.  In the show’s final episode, Frank once again confronts Steinbrenner and yells,

“How could you spend $12 million on Hideki Irabu????!!!”

I guess we will never know, Mr. Costanza.

 

Kevin Brown

 

Awful move.

I can understand why Steinbrenner and the Yankees sought Kevin Brown. He had racked up a lifetime of accolades, including a World Series ring. He was even named “Pitcher of the Year” by The Sporting News in 1998. Brown had made a number of All-Star game appearances, and had the ability to carry a pitching staff working as the ace.

What I cannot understand however, is how a pitcher can get so frustrated that he throws a punch at a wall and breaks his pitching hand in the process. I mean, if you are a pitcher and you have a bad game and get called on it by your teammates or manager, slam your glove to the dugout floor. Take a bat to the dugout water fountain, if you are feeling especially psychotic. Or my personal favorite, knock over a Gatorade cooler.

 

Knock it over!!!!

But don’t ever, under any circumstances, try to pick a fight with a wall and use physicality. The wall is guaranteed to win every time.

 

 

Kevin Brown is an idiot.

With that sheer display of immaturity, I not only lost all respect for Brown but now consider him a terrible move the Yankees made. I don’t really see it as a “Brock for Broglio” per se, because the Bombers only gave up Jeff Weaver, Yhency Brazoban, Brandon Weeden, and $2.6 million for Brown.

Aside from Weaver, the Yanks did not let go anyone of note and Weaver struggled mightily in the 2003 World Series…although his fall classic struggles didn’t stop him from pitching like a stud for the Cardinals in the 2006 World Series…

Anyway….I digress.  

In 2004 the Yanks probably felt Brown would help lead their pitching staff. But those feelings were not exactly well-founded.

In 2004 Brown went 10-6 with a 4.06 ERA, which weren’t bad numbers for an older pitcher who was playing for the first time in the crazy New York atmosphere. In fact, Brown pitched rather well in the ’04 ALDS vs. the Minnesota Twins, posting six innings and only giving up one run. The Yanks went on to win the series 3-1.

However, his ALCS Game Seven outing vs. Boston is what he is most infamous for; pitching less than two innings and allowing five runs, including a two-run homer to the hated David Ortiz. Essentially, Brown didn’t give the Yankees a shred of a chance to come back and win the pennant.

All Yankee fans, including myself, were outraged. He picked the worst day of the season to have a poor outing. The most important game ever and Joe Torre used the least intelligent member of his pitching staff.

In 2005, Brown attempted to come back, but was sidelined due to injuries. He finished the year in ’05 with a 4-7 record and an ERA of 6.50. The following off-season, he announced his retirement.

I don’t blame the Yanks for trying to catch lightening in a bottle with Brown; there is no denying that he was a decent pitcher in his prime. Yet, it did turn out to be a bad move because they caught Brown in the twilight of his career. As a Yankee, he was nothing but a shell of his former self and could not get the job done when it came to nut-cutting time.  

Overall, I chalk Brown up as a big loss for the Yankees.

 

Carl Pavano

 

Moron.

$39.95 million that could have gone to a better cause. Charity, I suppose.

Following the 2004 collapse to the Red Sox in the ALCS, the Yankees were convinced they needed starting pitching. Along with the big signing of the Big Unit, Randy Johnson, the Yanks sought and landed free agent hurler Carl Pavano.

I used the term “hurler” not because Pavano is a starting pitcher, but because just by mentioning his name makes me want to hurl.

 

Good in Florida. Abysmal in NY.

Not for nothing, Pavano was coming off his best career season, numerically, in ’04. In his contract year with the Florida Marlins, he won 18 games while only losing eight and posted a respectable 3.00 ERA.  His numbers made him a hot free agent commodity and multiple teams, including Boston and the Cincinnati Reds, wanted him.

Ultimately it was the Yankees who got Pavano and I wish they hadn’t. It would have been better for them if the Red Sox or Reds had wasted their money on him.

At first Pavano appeared to be a decent pitcher. He gave the Yankees quality in seven of his first 10 starts, putting together a 4-2 record and posting a 3.69 ERA–again, not bad for just starting out in the New York environment.

 But by June of ’05 Pavano got hurt for the first of many times. Truthfully, his injuries and disabled list stints piled up more than his actual baseball statistics.

·         Went on the DL in June of ’05 with right shoulder injury. Ultimately went 4-6 with a 4.77 ERA for the season.

 

·         Began 2006 with bruised buttocks; on DL for first half of year. Then…

 

·         Broke two ribs in a car accident in August of ’06; did not end up pitching at all in an MLB game.

 

·         On April 15, 2007 was placed on DL after what was diagnosed as an “elbow strain.” The next month Pavano announced that he would opt to have Tommy John surgery and missed the remainder of the year.

 

·         First start coming off Tommy John came on Aug. 23, 2008. He pitched five innings and gave up three runs on seven hits.

 

·         The next month on Sept. 14, Pavano left the game with an apparent left hip injury.

 

I have two words for all that: cry baby. He never pitched a full season with the Yankees.

What really struck me were Pavano’s comments after his last game as a Yankee. The press questioned him about his ineffectiveness and his repeated injuries; they were probably about as skeptical about his excuses as most fans were.

Pavano responded by saying, “Well, what are you going to do, you know?”

 

Bonehead.

Really? That’s the best he could do? $39.95 million should buy a little more thought than that. Pavano concluded his tenure (if you can even call it that) with a record of 9-8.

Prior to 2007, Mike Mussina stepped up and publicly called Pavano on his injuries. Mussina said, “His injuries don’t look good from a player’s standpoint. Was everything just a coincidence? Over and over again? I don’t know.”

Thank goodness one of his teammates spoke out against him. Quite honestly it needed to be done.

In 2009 Pavano joined the Cleveland Indians and was traded mid-season to the Twins. I couldn’t even believe it when I noticed that halfway through 2009 he was one of the league leaders in wins. He even finished 2009 with a record of 14-12–winning five more games in one year with Cleveland and Minnesota than he did in four years with the Yankees. 

How ridiculous is that?

At any rate, it must have been fun for the Yanks to punish Pavano for all the grief he put them through by beating him in Game Three of the ’09 ALDS–en route to their 27th World Series title.

 

Thanks for nothing, Carl.

If I were the Yankees last year, I would have sent Pavano a Christmas card with a picture of everyone hoisting the World Series trophy. Along with that, the Yanks could have attached a note to the photo that read, “Thanks for nothing.”

The Yanks also beat Pavano in the ALDS this past season, another satisfying moment for all Yankee fans.

 

Javier Vazquez and Nick Johnson

I decided to combine these last two players simply because they failed in pinstripes not once, but twice.

I’ll begin with Javier Vazquez.

 

BUM.

The day after the Yankees were eliminated from the ALCS at the hands of the Texas Rangers, it was reported that Vazquez was already speaking to the Washington Nationals about possibly pitching for them in 2011. His talks with the Nats obviously cooled off, and as reported on Sunday, Vazquez has apparently agreed to a deal with the Florida Marlins.

I have four words for him: good riddance, you bum.

Before this past season began, Vazquez was acquired from the Atlanta Braves along with reliever Boone Logan. In exchange for Vazquez, the Bombers gave up young outfielder Melky Cabrera and rookie reliever Mike Dunn.

I would not necessarily categorize the trade as a “Brock for Broglio,” although it kind of had that quality.  Cabrera had an awesome year in 2009; he smacked three walk-off hits for the Yanks (including the first walk-off home run in the New Stadium), became the first Yankee to hit for the cycle since Tony Fernandez in 1995, and capped it all off with a World Series ring.

Cabrera was a beast and was looked at as one of the most pleasant surprises in ’09.

The Yankees however did need starting pitching. They only used three starting pitchers in the playoffs and were able to get over the hurdles on the strength of three horses: CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and Andy Pettitte. They needed a fourth man and they looked to Vazquez.

Why they wanted Vazquez, I’ll never know.

Sure he was second in the National League when it came to ERA in 2009 (with 2.87) and he won 15 games for the Braves. I suppose the Yankees thought they would really be unstoppable if they could get that kind of production out of their number four starter–which made it somewhat understandable.

Yet, the Yankees must have forgotten how Vazquez busted for them in 2004, which was his first stint in pinstripes. In ’04 Vazquez went 14-10 with a 4.91 ERA. Like Brown, he pitched in Game Seven of the ’04 ALCS, giving up a grand slam and a two-run homer to Johnny Damon–once again, not giving the Yankees a shred of a chance to come back and win the pennant.


Psssh. 

Maybe they figured he could do a lot better than that come his second go-round. Perhaps the Steinbrenners and Brian Cashman had the mentality of, “It can’t get any worse, he can only do better.”

Not.

In 2010 Vazquez pitched to a 10-10 season record with a 5.32 ERA. He started 31 games and allowed 32 home runs, pitching so poorly throughout the year that he did not even make it into the postseason starting rotation. Was the trade really worth giving up Cabrera?

Well I guess it didn’t matter. Cabrera finished 2010 with a .255 batting average for Atlanta and only hit four homers and knocked in 42 runs. But that doesn’t erase what he did in 2009, and if he had played in the Bronx in 2010, he might have had a better year.

The bottom line is that Vazquez was a bad move made by the Yankees. I knew he was going to bust before the season began; actually I knew he was going to fail again right after the trade was completed. It was just so foreseeable. And when he gave up that first-pitch home run to Jimmy Rollins on day one of Spring Training, I knew it was all over for him.

And then there was Johnson.

 

Waste of time and money

In 2001, Johnson served the Yankees as Tino Martinez’s backup at first base. When Martinez left for St. Louis after the season ended, Johnson became a little bit of a regular first baseman, albeit the Yanks did have Jason Giambi in their lineup and available to play first.

Johnson would go on to rank seventh in the league in hit-by-pitches in 2002, but did put up a somewhat decent year in ’03. Johnson clubbed 14 homers and drove in 47 runs with a .284 batting average, but his injury-prone nature kept him from truly breaking out.

The Yankees had no choice but to trade him at the end of ’03, ironically enough for Vazquez. Two useless Yankees got traded for one another. Really, what are the odds? And like Vazquez, as useless as Johnson was, the Yankees still could not manage to give up on him.

 

"Yay!! I wasted the Yankees' $$!!"

On Dec. 23, 2009 the Yanks signed Johnson back to a one-year, $5.5 million deal.

This past year Johnson was expected to be the everyday designated hitter, taking up the mantle of the great, 2009 World Series MVP Hideki Matsui. Unfortunately, Johnson saw little action because of a wrist injury. In fact, before the season even began, Johnson injured his back in Spring Training, proving once again that he did not belong in a Yankee uniform.

He finished 2010 very early with 24 games under his belt, only 98 plate appearances, two home runs, eight RBIs, and 12 runs scored.

I would certainly characterize that as a waste of $5.5 million.

 

 

The bottom line is, the Yankees have wasted a ton of money on terrible players and have given away some great players to get some rather mediocre ones. But they are not the only organization to do it; it happens to the best of teams.

I mean, the Red Sox gave up Jeff Bagwell for a reliever named Larry Andersen. (Who?)

The Blue Jays gave the Yankees David Cone for three minor leaguers who never made it.

The Devil Rays gave Bobby Abreu to the Phillies for Kevin Stocker. (Who?)

And who could forget the New York Mets giving up Scott Kazmir for Victor Zambrano?

Chan Ho Park–yes, Mr. Diarrhea himself–got $65 million from the Texas Rangers in 2002.

 Juan Pierre received $44 million from the Dodgers in 2007.

Yes, baseball organizations are human and make bad moves sometimes. Maybe next week I’ll review some of the BEST moves the Yankees have made; off-season changes that have paid off royally and had a great impact on the team. I can think of quite a few right off the top of my head.

And while I’m waiting, I’ll hope the Yankees can decide on the right moves. The Baseball Winter Meetings begin next week and I’m hoping the Bombers can make a splash in Orlando.


Winter Meetings start next week.

Believe: An Interview With Seattle Mariners’ Reliever Brian Sweeney

 

Brian Sweeney and I graduated from the same college!

 

Believe. It’s a motto Seattle Mariners’ reliever Brian Sweeney goes by. Believe in yourself, believe in God, just believe and you will be fine.

 

On July 1, Sweeney, a native of Yonkers, N.Y., pitched at Yankee Stadium; a scoreless, 1-2-3 inning in which he got Ramiro Pena, Brett Gardner, and Derek Jeter out. He later went on to face the Yanks on July 11 in Seattle and got the likes of Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, and Nick Swisher out. At press time, Sweeney is 1-1 with a 3.68 ERA.

 

But his story begins long before facing the Bronx Bombers. Sweeney recently talked to Yankee Yapping about his journey through baseball, where he learned his knee-buckling changeup, and how he was punk’d the night before he was called up to the big leagues.

 

Yankee Yapping: You started at Archbishop Stepinac High School, and then moved on to Mercy College. Could you describe what it was like to pitch for the Flyers (now known as the Mavericks) and what did you major in while you were there?

 

Brian Sweeney: Pitching for Mercy was an incredible learning experience.  I learned about hard work, dedication and how important it was to not give in, no matter what the circumstance.  

 

Our records each season were not very good but it was not for lack of effort. I learned how to lose which is an important aspect in my professional life.  

 

Learning how to lose helped me want to win more!

 

We lost off the field as well, because our assistant coach passed away in a car accident my freshman year. I also learned my changeup from my head coach at Mercy that I still use today.

My major was biology. 

 

 

 

Mercy alumn can go on to do great things..hope I fall into that category. 

 

YY: Growing up, was there any specific team or player you looked up to?

 

BS: I was a Yankee fan growing up and my idol was Don Mattingly.

 

 

 

YY: You made your MLB debut for the Seattle Mariners on Aug. 16, 2003. What was your initial reaction when you got the call to the show?

 

BS: There was an unbelievable feeling of satisfaction. I knew from when I was four years old that I wanted to be a professional baseball player. Granted I wanted to play shortstop for the Yankees, but after seven years of work in the minor leagues, I have finally accomplished my goal of getting to the big leagues.  

 

People spend seven years in school to become doctors and lawyers, but I would certainly say my schooling helped me become a big league baseball player.

 

 

 

YY: After you spent a year with the Mariners, you went to San Diego to pitch for the Padres. What was the move like, going from the American League to the National League?

 

BS: The move wasn’t a big deal, except I wanted to stay with the Mariners my whole career. They brought me up and I wanted to pay dividends for them. I guess I can do that now that I’m back in Seattle. Both San Diego and Seattle are classy organizations. I only wish they were closer to home for me and my family, though!

 

 

Brian pitched for the Padres in 2004 

 

 

YY: On May 7, 2006, you earned your first career save in a 6-3 Padres’ victory over the Chicago Cubs. As a relief pitcher, how did that feel and would you rather have a win or a save?

 

BS: It was a pretty cool experience considering our closer was Trevor Hoffman. He had pitched, like, five days in a row and he had the day off so they put me in the closer role that day.  Everybody in the stands expected Hoffy to run out of the bullpen, but they got me that day.  

 

All things winning are good, so I prefer both.

 

 

 


The drills are different in Japan 

 

YY: At the end of ’06 you made your way to Japan and pitched for the Nippon-Ham Fighters. The story in the Journal News said, “You could go on all day about the differences between pitching in Japan and the United States.” Is there anything that you miss about Japan, now that you’re back in the States?

 

BS: I miss some of the drills that were conducted over there. For instance, they would put the pitchers at shortstop and it really was a great workout. I also miss some of my teammates. I played with Yu Darvish, who is an excellent player and a classy individual. Overall, it was a lot of fun to play in Japan.

 

I would also say I miss the food there. It was tremendous!

 

 

 

YY: This past April you came back, signed a deal with the Mariners, and then you were sent to the minors. Exactly two months later you were back in the majors. How did it feel to be back, considering you went right back to where you started (in Seattle) Was it a kind of homecoming for you? How happy were your teammates for you?

 

BS:  It felt like I was in a time machine. All I could say was, “Where am I?”

 

Coming back and getting called up was satisfying, especially since I was able to go back to the Mariners–the team that bred me for seven years. It was like a homecoming, but I also had to get to know a lot of my teammates.

 

The only one I really knew from my first stint with the Mariners was Ichiro. It was fun to catch up with him and we talked a lot about Japan. It was a learning process to get to know the rest of the players. It took some time, but I got to know them all.

 

 

 

Believe. 

 

YY:  Recently on July 1, you pitched at Yankee Stadium–a scoreless, 1-2-3 7th inning in which you got Ramiro Pena, Brett Gardner, and the legendary Derek Jeter out.

 

Your family was there, holding signs that read “believe” on them. Could you maybe give me the story behind that, and what did it feel like to be pitching at Yankee Stadium against its most beloved player? Did you change your pitching approach when Jeter stepped into the box?

 

BS: Believe is a word my children use (they are 11 and 6). It’s a strong word that means a lot and it pays dividends over time; believe in yourself, believe in God. My family jumped on that. They made signs that read “Believe” on them and it was meaningful to me that they did that.

 

I later found out that the Mariners’ team expression is “Believe Big.” It’s just a positive word.

 

As for Jeter…

 

I did the same thing with him that I did with the other hitters; same approach. Obviously he is one of the most celebrated ballplayers on the Yankees and he was a nice challenge.

 

The only thing that was different about him was that he took a long time to get into the batter’s box. I wish he had gotten into the box a little faster! Maybe he was trying to slow me down? It could just be his routine.

 

 


On July 1, Brian pitched against Derek Jeter at Yankee Stadium 

 

 

YY: At the moment your career record is 4-1. Of those four wins, which one would you say (if you can) was the most memorable, or rewarding?

 

BS: My first win was certainly the most rewarding. On June 29, 2004, San Diego needed a starter to face the Arizona Diamondbacks–and not just the D’Backs, but Randy Johnson.

 

Johnson had 3,992 career strikeouts and was going for 4,000. In that game, he got to 4,000 and I was two of them; I had to hit against him because it’s the N.L. We did however win the game 3-2 and it was a great feeling.

 

The next day I actually met Randy and talked to him, which also made it memorable.

 

 

 

YY: What’s the best story you have from being an MLB pitcher? When I interviewed John Flaherty (a former MLB catcher) he said he was hung over the day he was called up to the majors. Do you have a story like that?

 

BS: Oh brother! I know John very well and it’s pretty funny that he was hung over when he was called up! I have a story like that…

 

The night before I was called up I was out with a longtime roommate of mine. We had a few beers and then Jim Slaton, one of the coaches said, “I’m fired because the team isn’t pitching well.” I didn’t take it very well and had some choice words.

 

Finally he stopped me and said, “Just kidding. You’re going to the big leagues tomorrow.” I practically passed out; all the work I put in had finally paid off.

 

I was so happy, but I couldn’t get in touch with my dad right away because of the massive blackout that hit the east coast in the summer of 2003. I wanted my dad to be the first to know, because he was and still is a huge part of my success.

Wait, Shelley Duncan Can Do….WHAT?

To try and get my mind off what was by far the most embarrassing loss of the season, I figured I would have a little fun in light of everything that happened yesterday.

 

 


Former Yankee Shelley Duncan is now on the Indians 

As most people probably noticed, former Yankee sparkplug Shelley Duncan is currently a member of the Cleveland Indians. Duncan, an on-and-off Yankee from mid-2007 through 2009, was a fan favorite; his silly antics and patented high-five were part of his personality and fans accepted him into the Yankee lifestyle.

 

His trademark high-five, by the way, once fractured Kim Jones’s hand. It was for real!

 

 


Duncan's high-five once hurt Kim Jones! 

A strong majority of Yankee Universe (including myself) loved how Duncan fit in when he first made it to the majors. In fact, he smacked five home runs in his first 22 at-bats. His great numbers in the minors at first seemed to be translating to the majors very well.

 

Unfortunately he could not keep it up towards the beginning of 2008 and was demoted back down to Triple-A, only to be called up and sent down sporadically over the next two years. If you ask me, Duncan is in between; he is too good for the minors but not good enough for the majors.

 

That’s probably the worst spot to be in.

 

However, his numbers and his career do not make him any less awesome. At least not according to a website I came across awhile back.

 

A lot of people are familiar with the “Chuck Norris Facts” site and…well…I found one for Duncan. Whoever created this bizarre yet strangely amusing site obviously loves the Yankees and (from what it looks like) had a thing for Duncan.

 

On this site, there were over 450 of these “Shelley Duncan Facts” listed. I have rounded up my top 10 “facts” about the former Yankee. Enjoy!

 

10) Shelley Duncan can make Joe Buck sound interesting.

 

I’m not sure if this is possible. As cool as Duncan is (or at least whoever made this fact thinks he is) Buck can never sound interesting. He will always be a biased, terrible, boring announcer.

 

Are there any people in the world who actually like Buck and Tim McCarver?

 

9) Derek Jeter gets all the girls, because he tells them he knows Shelley Duncan.

 

OK, I don’t know who is right or wrong here. What I do know that Jeter is a legend when it comes to the ladies. He has been linked to more girls than any other baseball player probably in history.

 

Jessica Biel, Vanessa Minnillo, Jessica Alba, Vida Guerra, and…whether he marries Minka Kelly or not remains to be seen.

 

I have to give the “Yankee Clipper” Joe DiMaggio credit for being married to Marilyn Monroe–that’s impressive, and he was probably the envy of every man in America.

 

But Jeter does work when it comes to the ladies. The Yankee Captain is a player, plain and simple. And apparently so is Duncan, according to this fact.

 

8) Shelley Duncan is the reason Lance Bass went gay

 

Well…I don’t know about that, but…

 

In the wise words of Jerry Seinfeld, “Not that there’s anything wrong with that.”

 

7) Ever wondered why Hawaii is so far out in the Pacific? It used to be a small pineapple-producing island 20 miles off the coast of San Diego. During one visit, Shelley Duncan ate a bad pineapple…The rest, my friends, is history.

 

You know, I always wondered why Hawaii was out there. I learned something.

 

6) Shelley Duncan lost his virginity before his mom and dad.

 

.:BLANK, PUZZLED STARE:.

 

 


 

 

5) Bill Buckner missed the ball because he saw Shelley Duncan in the crowd.

 


Haha! 

 

A-hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahhahahahaaaaaaa!!!!!!

 

4) Shelley Duncan can fix the Knicks.

 

Maybe he can. But if he can’t, LeBron James might be able to…Chris Bosh, too.

 

3) Shelley Duncan…that’s what she said!

 

Exactly.

 

2) Sonic the Hedgehog , The Flash, and Superman once challenged Shelley Duncan to a race. When Sonic, Flash and Superman tried to cheat, realizing Shelley was much more skilled and faster than them, Shelley high-fived them all, killing them instantly. Nobody -including Johnny Damon, Jose Reyes, Ichiro, or Shane Victorino – has since dared to challenge Shelley Duncan to a race.

 

I’m a little biased towards this one, because I submitted it. I know, it’s lame. It’s dumb. It makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. But that’s what makes it funny.

 

Just go with it…

 

1) Shelley Duncan can drown a fish.

 

Believe it or not, there’s a little bit of a back-story to this one.

 

Last year, I really liked this girl. I was trying to come up with silly ways to impress her, and I went to the Shelley Duncan site for help. I figured if I can do amazing things, she would like me more.

 

I came across this fact and proceeded to tell the girl that I can drown a fish. Go ahead and laugh at me; make fun of me all you want. But guess what? IT WORKED!

 

In fact, she took it a step further and told me she could drown two fish!

 

Drowning fish...? 

 

I told her I wanted proof of her ability to drown two fish. Believe it or not, she actually sent me pictures of her pretending to drown two fish! It’s…kind of hard to explain, but it was really funny! She did an excellent job with it! I gave her “cool points” for her remarkable effort.

 

We eventually got together for a little while, and maybe I should thank Shelley Duncan for that. His ridiculous fact got me a girl, or at least it helped me get a girl. I think she liked me for more than just saying I can drown a fish.

 

Click here for the definitive list of Shelley Duncan facts. I swear it can keep you entertained for awhile. And it definitely helped me take my mind off the Yankee loss yesterday.

 

Awful. Just awful.  

 

But today’s a new day! Let’s get ‘em, Yanks!

Edition 12

Greetings Yankee fans!

 

And welcome to the 12th installment of Yankee Yapping.

 

Away we go!

 

My thoughts on…

 

The State of the Yankees

 

 


The Yankees have gone 4-3 over their last seven games.jpg 

The state of the Yankees has recently been in a state of inconsistent flux.

 

Coming off two losses (out of three games) to the Orioles, the Yankees looked ready to play and defeated the Angels 5-3 in a make-up game Monday night. It was certainly a step up from how they did right before the All-Star break in Anaheim. Nice work from Nick Swisher, who continues to look very good on the offensive side of the field.

 

He hit his 27th home run of the season along with collecting his 79th RBI of the year. Swisher’s recent success was a topic of last week’s blog and like I said last week, he’s gone above and beyond his expectations.

 

Either way, it was good to see the Yankees beat a potential ALCS opponent and it was hopefully a good omen in beating the Halos’ best pitcher this year, Jered Weaver. I hope the Yankees can do it again tonight, tomorrow, and Wednesday against the Angels and if they meet in playoffs, I hope that also goes the Yankees’ way.

 

The Angels have not been very kind to the Yankees in playoffs past, eliminating them in the ALDS in 2002 and 2005. If they meet this year I really think things will be interesting.

 

Following the win over LA of Anaheim, the Yankees dropped a 10-4 decision to the Toronto Blue Jays in the first of their two-game series. I really think the Yankees just got very lazy in this game. There was no offense and Sergio Mitre was blown out along with the entire bullpen.

 

The Yankees gave up five homers to the Jays last Tuesday. If that doesn’t say sloppy, I don’t know what does. Of course Roy Halladay once again held down the Bombers, tossing six innings while nailing down six strikeouts. He is now 18-6 with a 2.84 ERA lifetime against the Yanks. Now that’s ownage.

 

In game two against the Jays, things were looking not-so-good before the eighth inning. Down 4-2, Hideki Matsui once again proved his resurgence as he blasted a game-tying two-run homer to keep the Yankees in the game.

 

But it was rookie Francisco Cervelli’s turn to shine on; he belted the game-winning single in the bottom of the ninth to beat the Jays. I was so happy for him–his first big league walk-off hit. Cervelli looked elated and could hardly speak before A.J. Burnett pied him in the face.

 

I could only smile as I watched the Yanks mob Cervelli. And I only had one thing to say as Cervelli was being mobbed and pied: “Thanks, rookie.”

 

Then we set out for the west coast, and I must say, there was a lot of good and a lot of bad to come out of Friday night’s pitcher’s duel in Seattle.

 

First the good: Burnett gave the Yankees a good game. He pitched seven innings and gave up only one earned run on seven hits. He walked three and struck out six, so I’ll take the quality start. He also picked off Ichiro twice. Nice work on Burnett’s part. If he continues to pitch like that, the Yankees are in good shape.

 

 


A.J. Burnett tossed seven innings of one-run ball Friday night 

I was also pleased with Phil Hughes, who recorded his 17th hold of the year with a scoreless eighth inning. In these types of close games it’s refreshing to know we have Hughes in our bullpen. Nice work.

 

It’s also good to know the Yankees were able to reach base and pound out eight hits against a Cy Young caliber pitcher. Felix Hernandez tossed a complete game and is in the running for the American League Cy Young award. If the Bombers have to face an ace in the playoffs, they have demonstrated the ability to hit them.

 

Now onto the bad, which was basically the ending of Friday’s game.

 

Ichiro blasted the game-winning home run on Sept. 18 

 

Up 2-1 in the bottom of the ninth with two outs, Mariano Rivera made two mistakes; two pitches that cost the Yankees the game. He left two pitches out over the plate that Mike Sweeney and Ichiro both crushed, and as a result, the Yankees lost 3-2.

 

I, for one, was stunned. I could not believe Rivera had blown that save. It was the first time since April 24 in Boston that he had blown a save and only his second blown save of 2009.

 

Rivera has been lights out for the Yankees, so I am certainly willing to forgive him for that hiccup; it’s probably better he got that out of his system now rather than the playoffs.

 

 


Mariano Rivera had not blown a save since April 24 before Friday night 

But he did lose the game. Burnett pitched well, Hughes pitched well, there was no margin for error, and Rivera blew it. However, the Yankees could have scored some more for him, as they only posted two runs. While it was good they were able to pound out hits, they struggled to score runs.

 

So we saw good and bad in Friday’s loss. Saturday night was another story.

 

CC Sabathia went out and dominated, just like he has all year and especially since the All-Star break. The Yankee ace went seven strong innings and gave up an unearned run on just four hits. He walked two and fanned eight. Yankees 10, Mariners 1.

 

I really enjoy watching Sabathia. This is exactly why the Yanks got him–to just shut the other teams down. He is a soldier, he is a horse, and he has been as advertised. And I love it. Sabathia leads the American League with 18 wins and 220.1 innings pitched.

 

As everyone knows, (like Hernandez) he’ll be in serious consideration for the AL Cy Young Award. But Sabathia could also win 20 games this year. He’s got a chance at it, anyway.

 

CC Sabathia is 10-1 since the All-Star break and a contender for the AL Cy Young Award 

 

Mark Teixeira provided the Yankees with enough offense, almost hitting for the cycle. He needed a double, but instead he smacked his second home run of the game and 37th of the year. Teixeira leads the league in RBIs with 118 and has done some amazing things to help the Yanks win this year. He will certainly get some Most Valuable Player Award consideration.

 

It’s obvious the Yankees could be taking home a lot of hardware this year, that’s for sure. You can think about every opportunity for them to attain individual accolades: Sabathia for the Cy Young Award, Teixeira and Derek Jeter for the MVP, and there are multiple players who could win Gold Glove and Silver Slugger Awards.

 

And of course they collectively want the big one: a World Series ring.

 

I also want to point out Matsui. He hit his 26th home run of 2009 in Saturday’s win and set a new team record. He now has the most home runs by a designated hitter since Don Baylor in 1984. Nicely done, Matsui; you can still provide a huge threat at the plate and you have proven me wrong.

 

Finally on Sunday it was Joba Chamberlain’s turn to try and finish off the Mariners. He did not succeed. The Yankees managed only one run, Chamberlain was lit up for seven runs in three innings, and the Bombers lost, 7-1.

 

This past week has basically been “hot-cold.” There were games the Yanks went out and played hard and looked consistent. Then there were games like yesterday where they looked completely lost.

 

To me, they seemed to get complacent. They own the best record in the majors, they are inevitably going to the playoffs, and they have played the most consistent baseball to this point. But it just looks like they are becoming a little too easy-going and are not playing well as a result.

 

With only 12 games left, the Yanks will need to win just one game to clinch a playoff spot. The magic number remains at nine for the AL East; any number of combined Yankee wins and Boston losses that add up to nine means the Yankees will win the AL East.

 

This next week will tell us a story: three against the Angels and three against the rival Red Sox. The test of toughness continues for the Yankees. We’ll see if they answer accordingly.

 

Tuesday Night Fight

 

 


The Yankees engaged in their first brawl inside the new Yankee Stadium. They fought the Blue Jays 

It’s not that I condone fighting or brawls of any kind. I mean, I like pro wrestling just as much as the next guy, but Tuesday night went beyond the likes of the WWE or UFC.

 

Toronto’s Edwin Encarnacion and Aaron Hill were both hit by pitches. The Blue Jays obviously took exception to it and threw behind Yankee catcher Jorge Posada. An exchange of words took place and the benches were cleared…and warned.

 

I think Posada took a little bit of a cheap shot when he scored and elbowed Jays’ reliever Jesse Carlson on the way to the dugout. It was unnecessary, but the Yankees and Jays got into a melee.

 

The fighting was unfortunate, but it was historical; it was the first Bronx Bomber brawl in the new Stadium. I’m sure there will be more fights to come in future years, but in hindsight it was probably not a good thing.

 

Posada was suspended three games for the fracas. It gave Cervelli a chance to win the game on Wednesday, but still it doesn’t look good for the team.

 

On the positive side of the coin, however, I think fights can sometimes ignite teams. The Yankees were losing pretty bad, and as noted before, were playing inconsistently. I feel that the fight may have energized them a little bit and gave them incentive to not lay down the next day.

 

I will say this, though: on May 19, 1998 the Yanks were involved in a real, knock-down drag-out scuffle with the Baltimore Orioles. Tino Martinez had been hit with a pitch by Armando Benitez right between the shoulder blades. There was thought to be intent and the Yankees responded with violence.

 

Bernie Williams said the '98 brawl banded the Yankees together 

 

Both benches cleared, the bullpens emptied, and there were a number of players exchanging words and punches. I’ll probably never forget Ken Singleton’s words while calling the game: “You do NOT throw at Tino Martinez!!!”

 

Former Yankee Bernie Williams said of the 1998 brawl, “We (the Yankees) really banded together like a group of brothers during that fight.”

 

That aspect of the fighting I admire; if the Yankees can find it to keep themselves together while fighting, I say it’s good. Whatever holds the team together and motivates them to win, I like. 

 

Violence is not always the answer, but I think the Yankees did the right thing in standing up for themselves. We haven’t seen that from them in awhile.

 

Joba Chamberlain’s Situation

 

 


Joba Chamberlain's pitching future remains a question mark 

I was happy on Monday with Joba Chamberlain’s outing. He gave up a home run to Vladimir Guerrero, but other than that he looked pretty solid, for what it was worth.

 

Four innings, one run, four hits, no walks, two strikeouts on Monday vs. the Angels. Alright, acceptable. I still think they should have allowed him to pitch more innings, but the “Joba rules” prohibited that.

 

But his start yesterday in Seattle was unacceptable. In terms of his individual numbers from Sunday, Chamberlain only went three innings and allowed seven earned runs. He also walked three and only struck out two.

 

After the game, the press questioned how he felt about his outing. He said it was embarrassing and not being able to pick up his team was frustrating. It’s frustrating to watch as a fan, too.

 

I didn’t like what Chamberlain said about his overall feeling. He said if you kick him, he’ll get right back up and keep moving, in terms of his confidence. That’s a great thing for him. But he also said he feels fine and that his overall attitude about his pitching is fine.

 

But it’s not fine.

 

Earlier in the year David Cone of the YES Network said Chamberlain needs to take more responsibility for what he does. For the most part he has; he said flat-out, “I was embarrassed and I let them down.” But he still wouldn’t say how inconsistent he has been and how he’s planning on fixing it.

 

I don’t know what the plan is for Chamberlain in terms of the post-season. I say he should not pitch in the rotation, at least not in round one. If they want to use him, use him from the bullpen or long relief if need be.

 

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again–the rules just threw him off course. His numbers were solid for the first four games after the All-Star break. They put him on the new rules and he went downhill.

 

Last week I blogged about each and every starter in the Yankee rotation. I said I was worried about most of them (save for CC Sabathia) Burnett impressed me on Friday and as long as he can keep pitching that way, I feel he’ll be fine. Burnett even said after the game that he felt good and is going to try and mimic that performance the rest of the way.

 

So I’m tending to worry less about Burnett at the moment.

 

As for Andy Pettitte, I am concerned about his shoulder but we’ll see how he does tonight. It was a wise move for Joe Girardi to skip him over because he was injured. Good move, let’s just hope his problem with his shoulder does not affect him in the long run.

 

But Chamberlain–I just don’t know anymore. I think most Yankee fans are tired of the rules and what they have done with him. It’s ridiculous, if you ask me.

 

Yet the bottom line is that I still believe in Joba Chamberlain. He’s gone through a lot this season–good and bad–but I still think he needs time to grow. Everyone expected him to be lights out every time he took the mound, but in reality it just doesn’t go that way. It’s not how life as a young pitcher works.

 

I still think the rules are just so unimportant and they should just let him pitch. I mean, no one seemed to say anything about his innings limit or pitch count when Chamberlain out-dueled Josh Beckett at Fenway Park in July of last year. And his critics didn’t say anything negative about him when he fanned nine Red Sox that night, either. 

 

It’s amazing how some of the fans forget some of the better moments Chamberlain has enjoyed while he’s struggling. Yes, he’s scuffling now, but fans have to remember some of his better games, too, and what he is capable of.

 

 

Ken Griffey, Jr.

 

 


Ken Griffey, Jr. has 36 career homers off Yankee pitching 

It is defined as a player who has a reputation for being able to defeat the New York Yankees on a regular basis. If anyone falls under the category of “Yankee Killer,” it’s Ken Griffey, Jr.

 

On Sunday, “the kid” smacked a double and a home run while recording four RBIs against Joba Chamberlain en route to the Mariners’ 7-1 win over the Bombers. It was just like the good old days for Junior.

 

In his lifetime Griffey now has 36 home runs against the Yankees with 101 RBIs and a batting average over .300. To me that’s not just a series of isolated incidents. That’s ownage over the Yankees.

 

I always liked him. In fact, when I was younger, every year before the start of each season I would try and map out in my head which players the Yankees could trade away to get Griffey. I wanted him to play in pinstripes every year, it seemed.

 

I didn’t realize until July 7, 2007 that Griffey’s dad, Ken Griffey, Sr., was a Yankee during his playing days. When I attended Old Timer’s Day that year, they announced his father by saying, “before there was junior, there was Ken Griffey, Sr.!”

 

I remember looking up at the diamond vision screen and just saying to myself, “WOW. I had no idea he used to be a Yankee…and Junior is a spittin’ image of him; they look so much alike!” That day was pretty special. I was able to see Griffey, Sr. during the Old Timers’ festivities. 

 

I only had the pleasure of seeing Griffey, Jr. play once. It was August 27, 1999 at the original Yankee Stadium. He was hated back in those days by the Yankee faithful and I mean hated. In fact, the fans in the bleachers despised Griffey so much that they chucked batteries at him (while he was playing centerfield) during that game. 

 

He didn’t muster any notable offense that night and neither did the rest of the team; Roger Clemens shut out the M’s and the Yankees won, 8-0.

 

I think they hated him because he was so good. He was one of the best all-around players in the game at the time, if not the best. And I wanted him on the Yankees so bad. But the more I have thought about it over the years, the more I realize that the Yankees never needed Griffey to win.

 

The secret to the Yankees’ success in the late 1990s was that there were no superstars; the Yankees had no players that hit over 40 home runs and drove in over 130 RBIs in a single season. They created their own ways of winning, simply by going on almost a rotation.

 

One game it might be Bernie Williams who produced, the next night it could be Derek Jeter. Maybe the game after it was Tino Martinez or Scott Brosius or Paul O’Neill. They didn’t need the big stick to get it done and win ballgames; they did it without an overwhelming show of sheer power.

 

That was the formula that shaped the Yankee Dynasty of the late 90s. For as good as the Mariners were with players like Griffey, Alex Rodriguez, Jay Buhner, and Edgar Martinez (and so on) the Yankees were just better.

 

My heart was overjoyed when Griffey left Seattle for Cincinnati after the 1999 season. No more Yankee killer, I thought. As fate would have it though, the Reds came to the Bronx to play the Yankees last year, in June 2008, during inter-league play.

 

Griffey homered off Andy Pettitte and the New York crowd gave him a standing ovation. I think the Yankee fans recognized that Griffey is a player who has just been outstanding against the Yankees throughout his whole career–and he can still get it done in the twilight of his career. It was his final go-round in the old Stadium where he enjoyed a good amount of success, so they cheered for him. A very respectful gesture, I must say.

 

Griffey returned to Seattle (as everyone knows) for this year, 2009. “The kid” took Pettitte deep again on July 1, crushing a solo shot in the sixth inning. I’m not sure the fans gave him such a rousing welcome as they did in 2008, but he still showed he can get it done even at the age of 39.

 

That round-tripper marked the 44th MLB Park Griffey has homered out of.

 

Griffey watches his home run sail out of the new Yankee Stadium on July 1 

 

It was noted during this past weekend’s broadcast that Griffey wants to come back and play in 2010. He’ll be 40 years old on Nov. 21, but personally I’d love to see him back for one more year. If he remains with the Mariners, I’d even buy a ticket when they come to the Bronx next year in the hopes of seeing Griffey play one last time.

 

With 627 career home runs, the title of “Yankee Killer,” and such remarkable stats all-around, Griffey will definitely be in the Hall of Fame someday. I even think that if he had maintained his health, he would be the all-time home runs leader right now.

 

And I am privileged to say that I saw him play during the best years of his career. I just hope if he plays next year, the Yankees can manage to hold him down. That’s highly unlikely, however.

 

Well that does it for this week’s blog. 12 games left in the regular season, it’s almost playoff time, and the Yankees are staring a post-season berth in the eye.

 

I’ll be back next week with more topics, highlights, and analysis.

 

Until then, Go Yankees!!!

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