Results tagged ‘ Pedro Martinez ’

The Boone Identity: Remembering the Radical 2003 Yankees-Red Sox Saga

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If you’re a Yankee fan, Oct. 16 holds a warm place in your heart. The memory of a mighty swing by Aaron Boone in the 11th inning of Game 7 of the 2003 American League Championship Series to crush the dreams of Red Sox Nation has held up, and will continue to hold up forever more.

In honor of the 11th anniversary of this profound piece of Yankee history, this writer is going to take you on a ride back to the past and muse about the goings-on of the 2003 Yankees-Red Sox saga; perhaps point some things out that didn’t necessarily meet the eye to the average fan.

Join me, will you?


 

The background

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It took a long time before the Yanks and BoSox reached the climactic Boone game. A really long time, in fact. The two hated rivals had faced each other 25 times in ‘03 leading up to Game 7 of the ALCS. Their 26th meeting in the decisive game was historic, in the sense that no two teams – in any sport – had faced each other more times in a single season.

But so much more happened before Game 7.

In squaring off against each other so many times, the Yankees and Red Sox had generated some disdain for one another. Earlier in the season on July 7 in the Bronx, Pedro Martinez, Boston’s ace, had plunked both Alfonso Soriano and Derek Jeter – bean balls that were so intense they sent the two hitters at the top of the Yankees’ batting order to the hospital.

Jeter was hammered on his right hand while Soriano suffered a shot on his left hand. The after effects of the HBPs were so great that, after more than two weeks later, both hitters felt the pain of Martinez’s missed location; the captain’s hand was still swollen and Fonsy felt some aches just by checking his swing.

Roger Clemens, the Yankee ace, in return struck Red Sox first baseman and team ringleader Kevin Millar with a pitch. Millar, a colorful and outspoken player who had urged his team to “Cowboy Up,” would later express anger towards Clemens for the Yankees act of retaliation.

The late Yankee owner George Steinbrenner even got in on battle. The Boss was asked if Martinez was headhunting; throwing at the Yankees with intent. His response:

“I can’t answer that. But if he was, he’ll regret it.”

Steinbrenner had every reason to be suspicious about whether or not the hit-by-pitches were deliberate. In the past, 2001 to be exact, Martinez told the Boston Globe,

“I’m starting to hate talking about the Yankees. The questions are stupid. They’re wasting my time. It’s getting kind of old … I don’t believe in damn curses. Wake up the damn Bambino and have me face him. I’ll drill him in the ass, pardon the word.”

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Red Sox CEO Larry Lucchino then got his jab in, giving the Yankees a moniker in homage to the Star Wars franchise. He dubbed the Bronx Bombers “The Evil Empire.” Yankee Universe happily (or at least sarcastically) welcomed the nickname.

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So was Jeter Darth Vader? Sure, that makes sense.


 

How we got there

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The physical and verbal blows during the regular season were only the beginning, laying the groundwork for what was to come in the playoffs. The Yankees finished 2003 with a record of 101-61, six games ahead of Boston for the AL East. The 95-67 Red Sox captured the AL Wild Card – keep in mind that in ’03 there was no play-in game; the BoSox were automatically in the eight-team postseason tournament without having to fight their way in the door.

Most fans may not remember that the ’03 Yankees-Red Sox ALCS clash wouldn’t have happened if the Oakland A’s didn’t collapse. In the ALDS the A’s handed Boston a 5-4 loss in Game 1; Oakland winning in the 12th on a walk-off bunt single by catcher Ramon Hernandez. Game 2 wasn’t any better for the Red Sox, as the A’s poured it on and beat Boston 5-1 – Oakland was only one win away from the next round.

Yet, maybe in the spirit of some foreshadowing, the Red Sox fought back.

Boston won Game 3, 2-0. They then took Game 4 by a count of 5-4, and completed the comeback with a 4-3 win in Game 5. The Yankees were already waiting for the winner of the Boston-Oakland series, having disposed of the Minnesota Twins in four games to reach the League Championship Series; the Yanks outscoring the Twins 16-6 in their divisional round.

The rally vs. the A’s and the thrashing of the Twins set the New York-Boston rivalry up for an epic showdown. Yes, the Baseball gods had done it again.

Players on both sides knew the World Series was not just at stake, but bragging rights were up for grabs and in a lot of ways, the ending or the continuation of Curse of the Bambino was on the line.

“Everyone says, ‘we played them towards the end of the year, does it get any bigger than that?’ Well, yeah it does. And this is it,” Jeter told MLB before the ALCS.

The Red Sox took Game 1, beating the Yankees 5-2. However, the first salvo seemed to be fired in the seventh inning when reliever Jeff Nelson hit Red Sox big man David Ortiz with a pitch. The Yanks went on to take Game 2 with a 6-2 win, but in terms of the HBP battle, Boston punched back.

Future hero Boone was beaned by Red Sox starter Derek Lowe and Soriano was plunked by Bronson Arroyo. The ALCS was split 1-1, tensions were at an all-time high, and the teams were beginning to get rather physical.

What’s the worst that could happen in Game 3?


 

And then, everything explodes

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The energy level at Fenway Park on Oct. 11, 2003 was off the charts – not that I was there, but listening to the words of the players and examining everything that had led up to Game 3, everyone from the fans to the media was on edge.

What’s more, the fact that Clemens and Martinez were on the hill for their respective clubs made it even more enticing. During batting practice, Millar was about as hyped up as an 8-year-old after consuming 50 sugar cubes, enthusiastically saying,

“We got Roger and Martinez, Game 3 split, Championship Series, American League, all eyes on the Sox!”

To this day I wonder if even he knew how jumbled that sounded. Mic’d up, he stood next to Ortiz and yelled,

“You’ve got to be going with the Sox! This is the Sox Nation! Two thousand and three! And screw that curse!”

Ortiz couldn’t help but laugh at Millar’s zeal, but a few short innings later, no one was laughing.

In the top of the fourth, Martinez let up an RBI ground rule double to Nick Johnson, which gave the Yankees a 3-2 lead. The very next hitter, outfielder Karim Garcia, took a pitch behind his head which appeared to nick him on the shoulder for another hit-by-pitch.

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Soriano came up next and grounded into a 6-4-3 double play, though another Yankee run scored. Leaving the field, Garcia had some choice words for the Red Sox and a heated exchange ensued.

Yankee catcher Jorge Posada, chest protector and shin guards on, came out of the dugout looking like a Roman centurion ready to attack Martinez. The two feisty foes got into some jaw-jacking and a bit of a “pointing battle” – Martinez using his index finger to point at his temple, as if to say to Posada, “I’ll hit you there.”

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The Yankees, in a nutshell, were unhappy with Martinez’s antics, and had no problem expressing their grief. Yet somehow the umpires settled matters down.

That is, until the bottom half of the inning.

Clemens delivered a high and tight 1-2 fastball to hothead Manny Ramirez, who believed there was intent behind the pitch – when clearly there wasn’t.

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Ramirez angrily tried to approach Clemens with the bat in his hand before being subdued by his teammates when the benches cleared. Needless to say all Hell broke loose at Fenway, but the victim of the fracas wound up being a coach, not a player.

Yankee bench coach, the late Don Zimmer (72 at the time) lunged towards Martinez, who grabbed him by the head and force-fed him to the ground. The Yankee trainers were able to help him up and get him back into the dugout free of serious injury, but the ugly incident further proved how the Yankees and Red Sox were at extreme odds.

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Eventually the situation calmed, and Clemens fanned Ramirez with a fastball on the outer part of the plate to get the game going again; the players back to their professional ways.

But just when it seemed everything was back to normal, it became a mess again.

An altercation broke out in the Yankee bullpen in right field between Nelson and a Boston grounds crew member, Paul Williams. Garcia, stationed in right field, also sampled the action. He hopped the wall into the ‘pen and got involved; a scrum of police officers, security officials, and Yankee relief pitchers creating an unpretty scene.

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Days later the Yankees’ personnel, notably president Randy Levine, defended the New York relief corps. Meanwhile the Red Sox brass were less than happy, and went to bat for their groundskeeper, explaining that he did nothing wrong. The Yankee side relented, though, and contended Williams had antagonized Nelson, and wanted an apology issued from the Boston side.

Yeah. That never happened.

Once the roller coaster ride finally ended, the Yankees escaped with a 4-3 win and a 2-1 ALCS lead. The reaction by a couple of individuals after Game 3, however, was unlike anything this writer had ever seen in sports – ever.

In terms of the Martinez-Zimmer incident, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg went on the record saying, “If that happened in New York, we would’ve arrested the perpetrator. Nobody should throw a 70-year-old man to the ground, period.”

That would’ve been quite a sight: the Red Sox ace being cuffed and escorted off the Yankee Stadium diamond by New York’s finest.

BoSox skipper Grady Little only had this to say:

“I think we’ve upgraded it from a battle to a war.”

The war raged on. The Red Sox won Game 4, 3-2, to even the series, then the Yankees grabbed Game 5 with a 4-2 win, taking a 3-2 series lead back to the Bronx. The Red Sox raised the eyebrows of the world by beating the Yanks 9-6 in Game 6, overcoming both Andy Pettitte and a raucous Yankee Stadium crowd.

Game 7. Roger and Pedro, again. He we are.


Is this happening?

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Before Game 7 took place, Boston sportswriter Howard Bryant caught up with Willie Randolph, a longtime pinstriper who had endured the “Bronx Zoo” era of the late 1970s as a player, and enjoyed the year-by-year success of the dynasty of the ‘90s as the Yankees’ third base coach.

Bryant asked Randolph what he thought about the deciding game. What do you think?

“Listen,” Randolph said. “Every single time we’ve had to beat them, we’ve beaten them. Tonight’s not going to be any different.”

But in the early going, it was  different – a lot different. Clemens struggled, surrendering a second inning, two-run home run to Trot Nixon. Later in the frame a throwing error by starting third baseman Enrique Wilson allowed Jason Varitek to come in, making it 3-0 Red Sox.

Clemens pitched into the fourth, although “the rocket” was all but gassed by then. Millar backed up some of his talking by sending Clemens’s offering into the seats in left field, a solo blast to give the Red Sox a 4-0 lead. Yankee manager Joe Torre had told starter Mike Mussina that he might use him out of the bullpen, which would’ve been the first time in his MLB career he would’ve pitched in relief.

A caveat, though:  Torre had told “Moose” that, if he were to use him, he’d bring him into the game when nobody was on base. That plan went by the wayside, as Mussina was summoned to mop up a first-and-third, no out mess.

Number 35, cleanup on aisle four.

Mussina was brilliant, striking out Varitek by utilizing his patented knuckle curveball, and followed by getting Johnny Damon to bounce into an unassisted 6-3 double play to skim out of further peril.

After the game Mussina teased Torre, inquiring, “I thought you said you were only bringing me in if there weren’t going to be men on base.”

Torre quipped back: “I lied.”

Jason Giambi, whom the Yankees had acquired after the fall of the dynasty in 2001, kept the Yanks close with two solo home runs off Martinez – a bomb in the fifth and another in the seventh.

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The Yankees trimmed the deficit to 4-2 but in the top of the eighth, Ortiz played pepper with the short porch seats, homering off another starter playing the role of reliever that night, David Wells. The solo job (that left Wells in utter disgust, putting it mildly) gave the Red Sox a run right back, making it 5-2 in favor of Boston.

Now Martinez, his pitch count over 100, came out to toss the bottom half of the eighth with a three-run lead, and while most members of Red Sox Nation thought this might ultimately be the year the Curse of the Bambino would be vanquished, some fans back in Beantown were not so convinced.

Baseball historian and Red Sox fan Doris Kearns Goodwin explained:

“When Pedro came back out in the eighth inning, we all started screaming ‘No! No! You can’t be doing it!’ I mean, fans think they know more than the managers – and often we don’t – but at that point everybody knew the pitch counts that Pedro would suddenly fall off the cliff, if he were over that pitch count.

“He was way over that pitch count, and so there was this huge sense of dread when he came to that mound.”

That dread was well-founded and soon realized.

Jeter pounded a one-out double off the wall in right field. Bernie Williams brought him in with a well-struck single in front of Damon in centerfield, cutting Boston’s lead to 5-3. The RBI base hit prompted a mound visit from Little, who shockingly stuck with his ace; Martinez not leaving the mound after the powwow, even with hard-throwing righty Mike Timlin and lefty specialist Alan Embree going double-barreled in the Red Sox bullpen.

Hideki Matsui, a left-handed hitter, was due up next. Embree would have been the obvious choice to match up with Matsui, but Embree could only watch from the ‘pen as Matsui ripped a ground-rule double down the line in right field off a tired Martinez, passing the baton to Posada.

The switch-hitting Yankee catcher, batting from the left side, punched a blooper into centerfield, falling in the middle of shortstop Nomar Garciaparra, second baseman Todd Walker and Damon to bring both Williams and Matsui to the plate. Posada reached second base – getting the last laugh off Martinez, thinking back to their chinwag in Game 3 – and Game 7 was tied, 5-5.

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Martinez then departed to a Bronx cheer; there was no undoing the damage the Yankees had done. The decision to keep Martinez in the ballgame haunted Red Sox Nation for a year. Fans were outraged at Little for not removing Martinez before the game turned, but Martinez – and others – have defended the move.

“I was just trying to do it,” Martinez said. “That’s what a lot of people don’t understand. Why didn’t Pedro give away the ball? Well, they didn’t ask me to give away the ball. They asked me if I could face the guys. I said yes! Of course I can! I’m in the middle of the game; I’m here to do this.

“When Grady came out, the simple question was whether I could pitch to Matsui or not. And I said yes.”

Former Red Sox favorite Johnny Pesky (for whom the foul pole in right field at Fenway Park is named) also was a proponent of allowing Martinez to stay in the game, and was quoted as saying,

“When he’s your best pitcher, and he tells you, ‘skipper, I got enough left in my tank’ you’re not going to take him out.”

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The fans on the other hand turned their ire on the call, and even went as far as constructing a poem about it, penned by Boston loyalist James Bair:

Why Did You Keep Pedro In?


We couldn’t have got there without you.
We were five outs away from a win.
You were the smartest guy in the stadium.
But why did you keep Pedro in?


We don’t believe in those curses.
We could care less about old Harry’s sin.
But with such a powerful bullpen,
Why did you keep Pedro in?


Oh, Pedro was awesome for seven,
And it looked like he could hang in.
Those two liners showed he’d become shaky—
Why did you keep Pedro in?


Though whacked cold, Johnny Damon kept waving;
The guys always want to stay in.
Of course, Pedro’d say he could blow them away,
But why did you keep Pedro in?


He could have left the hill as a hero—
We’d say Pedro had smoked them again!
You could not deny that his pitch count was high,
Why did you keep Pedro in?


We know there is one consolation:
We know you’ll never do it again.
Still the cry rises from Red Sox Nation:
Why did you keep Pedro in?


With each move you had out-managed Torre.
Yankee cheering was growing quite thin.
With such talented benches for backup,
Why did you keep Pedro in?


You made us now root for the Marlins,
And we hardly know how to begin.
You almost upended the Empire,
Why did you keep Pedro in?


You brought new pizzazz to the clubhouse:
The crew found the cowboy within.
You did so much for the guys, but with tears in our eyes,
We say, why did you keep Pedro in?

 

The question could be asked until the end of time. But it was moot. The game was knotted at five, and the Yankees used the unflappable closer Mariano Rivera for the 9th, 10th, and 11th innings. The stage was set. The question was no longer, “why did Grady leave Pedro in?” Rather it became “how is this saga going to finally end?”


 Sleeping on the X-Factor

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What probably gets lost in the shuffle was the fact that Boone had come into the game as a pinch-runner during that eventful bottom of the eighth. He took over at third base for Wilson on defense, who was surely not the Yankee fans’ favorite player that evening, because remember – he committed that costly error in the third which led to a Boston run.

It’s funny to me because, personally, I can recall the “due up” graphic in the middle of the 11th inning, watching in my Yankee pajamas from my bed in Beacon, New York; soon to be a droopy-eyed high school junior the following day, but the exhaustion coming with the excitement of a possible World Series berth. I even said to myself,

“Aaron Boone. Forget it, easy out. The next few guys have to hit, though! Let’s win this game!”

Perfectly logical assumption. In 31 postseason at-bats, Boone collected just five hits. The Yankees, however, had a lot more faith in Boone than this scribe did. Before he went into the on-deck circle while knuckleballer Tim Wakefield was warming up, Torre told Boone,

“Just hit a single. It doesn’t mean you won’t hit a home run.”

Randolph then issued the ultimate sign of faith:

“That inning, he came to the dugout and I met him at the top step. I patted him on the back and I said, ‘listen. You’re my sleeper pick. You’re the x-factor of the series.’”

Keith Olbermann – a bright sports pundit and someone for whom I have respect, albeit I disagree with him on plenty of topics – analyzed Boone’s at-bat this way:

“The odds were favoring a hitter in a slump. Because a hitter in a slump’s timing is already off. A knuckleball pitcher throws your timing off. Put a guy with bad timing, and add more bad timing to him, suddenly he has good timing – it’s a zero sum game in terms of timing.

“So you’re thinking, who on earth is going to get the base hit for the Yankees? Who can do anything against Tim Wakefield? Boone.”

Sure enough, the timing worked out. Everything worked out.

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Aaron Boone after hitting homerun in 2003 ALCS

Boone slaughtered Wakefield’s first pitch for a home run deep into the New York sky; the ball landing behind the wall in left field to give the Yanks a 6-5 win, sending the Bronx Bombers to their 39th World Series in franchise history. Pandemonium commenced; Yankees Stadium completely erupted, became unglued.

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The Red Sox were crushed, the pennant was won, and the Curse of the Bambino was alive and well.

Boone was speechless after clubbing the death blow, and managed just a few words:

“Derek told me the ghosts would show up eventually. And they did.”

The Captain verified those words postgame, saying,

“I believe in ghosts, and we got some ghosts in this Stadium!”

Torre went on to admit he thought there was some divine pinstriped intervention, later saying,

“It is weird to me that certain things happen that don’t seem logical. Yeah, you have to believe we’re getting some help from somewhere.”

What’s also not well known is that, after the bliss of a love-fest at home plate for Boone and the champagne celebration; after the presentation of the Will Harridge Award, and after Rivera was named ALCS MVP, the Yankee players made a pilgrimage out to Monument Park, donned with championship hats soaked in champagne. Specifically, they made a visit to Babe Ruth’s monument.

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“Look, he’s smiling! He’s smiling!” the Yankees gleefully exclaimed, whilst rubbing the forehead of the Great Bambino’s likeness on the monument.


 The aftermath and the impact of another curse

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While Little was quickly fired by the Red Sox and the image of Boone’s home run was tattooed on the minds of Red Sox fans everywhere, the Yanks were in the 2003 fall classic, matched up with the Florida Marlins – who Chicago Cubs fans felt had snaked their way in on account of fan interference in the ’03 NLCS. The Cubs had been winning 3-0 in the eighth inning of Game 6, and had they held on would’ve punched their first ticket to the World Series since 1945.

Steve Bartman, a Cubs fan sitting in the front row of the left field stands, accidently reached for a foul ball that was perhaps catchable for left fielder Moises Alou near the wall. Bartman got his hand on it, and the ball took a wrong bounce back into the seats, not going for an out – much to the infuriation of not only Alou, but every Cubs fan in the ballpark. Almost right after the gaffe, the Marlins wound up rallying to score eight runs to win the game, and carried on to win Game 7 by a count of 9-6.

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Not unlike the Red Sox and their Curse of the Bambino, the Cubs had the Curse of the Billy Goat hanging over their heads – a long story about a Chicago bar owner, who in 1945 was asked to leave Wrigley Field because the stench of the pet goat he brought to the park was bothering other fans.

He proclaimed, “Them Cubs, they ain’t gonna win no more.”

Subsequently the Cubs haven’t won the World Series since 1908.

I can’t help but think how the ’03 World Series would’ve gone had it been Yankees-Cubs, the matchup America wanted to see, instead of Yankees-Marlins – a bland fall classic that ended in a six-game series win for the fish.

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Would the Yankees have been able to beat the 1-2 punch of Kerry Wood and Mark Prior? Would they have been able to silence the bat of Sammy Sosa, who just five seasons earlier had smashed 66 home runs, and had hit 40 during the ’03 regular season? Would the Curse of the Billy Goat been upheld in the fall classic, the same way the Yanks kept up the Curse of the Bambino in the ALCS?

Would 2003 have been the year of title number 27 in the Bronx, if only the Yankees faced the Cubs and not the pesky Marlins, equipped with the likes of scrappers Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez, Josh Beckett and Juan Pierre?

We’ll never know.

To this writer, though, the ALCS was the World Series in 2003. Passion, heat, unmitigated physicality, the will to win intense rivalry games, and excitement that puts you on the edge of your seat – you want nothing more than that as a fan, or at this stage in my life as a journalist.

Hopefully we see it again, in baseball, sometime soon.

And hopefully, again, it’s between the Yankees and Red Sox.

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 SOURCES FOR THIS PIECE: Websites: Baseball Almanac, Baseball Reference.

DVDs: The Boston Red Sox vs. The New York Yankees: The Ultimate Rivalry (2005)

Ken Burns: The Tenth Inning (2010)

The Very Best of Jorge Posada

When Jorge Posada made his Major League Baseball debut on Sept. 4 1995, he got to Yankee Stadium early. The 24-year-old switch-hitting second baseman-turned-catcher walked from the clubhouse down the tunnel to the dugout to soak in what would become his home for the next 17 seasons.

Posada looked around at the majesty of Yankee Stadium. Tears of joy filled his eyes. In the years that followed he afforded the Yankees and their fans countless unforgettable moments, and basically became the Bronx Bombers’ unofficial co-captain.

A leader, a gamer, and one of the most intelligent and fiery Yankees to ever don the pinstripes, Posada, 40, is expected to announce his official retirement from baseball in the coming weeks. The Yankees will lose one of the “Key Three” members of their Championship Dynasty of the late 1990s.

Off the top of my head I can come up with a number of Posada’s best moments as a Yankee. Here are some of his most memorable achievements; a few of his accomplishments that made him such a special Yankee.

Breaking Out and a Perfect Day

Although Posada got the call to the show in 1995, he didn’t become a full-time player until later on in his career. In ’97 he replaced Jim Leyritz as backup catcher to current Yankee manager Joe Girardi, who was filling the position as the Yanks’ everyday backstop.

Posada started 52 games behind the plate in 1997 and played in a total of 60 games for the season. He only managed to smack six homers and knock in 25 runs for the season, but had a sort of “coming out party” in 1998.

An old baseball adage suggests that having a catcher that can hit is a bonus – and the Yankees had that bonus. At the plate Posada crushed 17 homers and batted .268 while recording 68 RBIs in ’98, but arguably his best feat of the year came defensively, on May, 17, 1998 when he caught David Wells’ perfect game at home against the Minnesota Twins.

When a pitcher throws a perfect game, sometimes it gets overlooked that the catcher is the one calling the signs, and most of the time the first person the pitcher credits after notching the perfecto is the catcher. It takes the battery of a pitcher and a catcher to complete a perfect game and Wells recognized that, rewarding Posada and the rest of the team with diamond rings when it was all said and done.

Before the Yanks moved into the new Stadium in 2009, Posada was asked what his favorite moment in the old Yankee Stadium was. His answer was simple.

“Catching David Wells’ perfect game was probably (the best moment) for me. It was just a day that…nothing went wrong. We were in sync from the get-go. He had a bad bullpen session but he got stronger and stronger as the game went along. I get chills, still.”

A Sweet Moment before the ‘02 All-Star Game

Posada and the Yanks capped 1998 with a World Series title, their second in three years. In ’99 he appeared in 112 games and hit 12 homers, knocked in 58 runs, and averaged .245 at the plate. The Yankees once again won a World Series title in ’99 and again in 2000 – which to that point was Posada’s best year numerically: 28 homers, 86 RBIs, and a BA of .287.

For his outstanding numbers he was selected to his first of five All-Star games in the year 2000. In 2002 Posada started the Midsummer Classic and during player introductions a Posada took the field – but it wasn’t Jorge.

Well, it was, actually. Posada’s son Jorge Luis, who has craniosynostosis (a bone condition which affects the skull of an infant), dashed out onto the baseball diamond when Posada’s name was called. The short man was playfully wrangled by Yankee nemesis and then-Red Sox player Manny Ramirez, who presented Jorge Luis to his proud father.

You Talkin’ to Me, Pedro?

Posada pieced together one of his best seasons in 2003, clubbing 30 homers to become only the second Yankee catcher along with Yogi Berra to ever hit 30 home runs in a season.

He also drove in 101 runs, batted .281, and scored 83 runs. At the end of the year he finished third in the American League Most Valuable Player voting, showing just how important he was to his team.

But all of that was basically overshadowed by the biggest rivalry in sports.

In ’03 the Yankees and their archenemies, the Boston Red Sox, played in some heated games. Over the summer Derek Jeter and Alfonso Soriano were beaned with fastballs by the hated Boston ace Pedro Martinez. Roger Clemens, the Yanks’ outspoken number one hurler, plunked Kevin Millar in retaliation.

As fate would have it, the Yankees and Red Sox met in the 2003 American League Championship Series; the winner would go to the World Series. Both squads were not shy about their feelings towards one another, as they exchanged words in the media. You couldn’t open a newspaper or turn on ESPN without hearing what the Yanks and BoSox were saying about each other.  

The ALCS was tied 1-1 and with tensions running high, all Hell broke loose in Game Three.

Yankees’ right fielder Karim Garcia was hit on the back by what looked like an intentional bean ball thrown by Martinez. Garcia didn’t take kindly to Martinez’s throw – and neither did Posada, who began to mouth off to Martinez from the dugout.

Some serious jaw-jacking ensued between Martinez and Posada, and eventually Martinez began to make seemingly threatening gestures at Posada from the mound. He put his index finger to his temple as if he was saying to the Yankee catcher, “I’ll hit you in the head.”

Things settled down and the game resumed after awhile, only for another fracas to begin in the next half-inning. Clemens threw a pitch high and tight to Ramirez; clearly no intent, yet the Boston left fielder tried to charge the mound and the benches cleared.

Don Zimmer, the Yanks’ 72-year-old bench coach, was tossed to the ground by Martinez in the brawl, proving just how ugly emotions between the two teams really were.

The ’03 ALCS was forced to a Game Seven, and with the Yankees trailing 5-2 in the eighth inning, it looked as though it was Boston’s time to “reverse the curse.”

But after a single by Bernie Williams that scored Derek Jeter, and a ground-rule double by Hideki Matsui, Posada stepped up to the plate in a huge situation: runners on second and third with one out.

And he was as clutch as can be.

Posada popped a blooper into shallow centerfield, a hit which no Boston outfielder or infielder could come up with. Williams and Matsui came to the plate to tie the game while he wound up on second base. Fired up, Posada clapped his hands together and pumped his fists in jubilation.

The game-tying bloop double set up Aaron Boone’s glorious home run in the bottom of the 11th, sending the Yankees to the World Series for the 39th time and the Red Sox home for the winter.

If it weren’t for Posada’s gritty, “never say die” attitude and his piece of late-game clutch hitting, Boone never would have had the chance to swing his bat in the 11th; the Yankees may have been doomed in the ‘03 ALCS.

As far as the Martinez-Posada feud: the two publicly expressed how they felt about one another: they both said they disliked each other.  However aside from the argument in the ’03 ALCS, nothing physical ever transpired between the two.

Unless you count the four career home runs Posada hit off Martinez.

On a side note, over the course of his career Posada hit 275 home runs. The most he smacked off a single pitcher: five off another Red Sox hurler, Tim Wakefield.

A Wild and Crazy Tuesday vs. Texas

On Wednesday May 17, 2006 – exactly eight years after Posada caught Wells’ perfect game – I got up and went to class. Nearing the end of my first year in college, I was amazed at what I had seen the night before. Everyone knew what a huge Yankee fan I was, and when I got to class I was asked the age-old question from one of my classmates:

“Did you see the game last night?!”

Of course I had. It was one of the most improbable and incredible comebacks ever.

On May 16, 2006 the Yankees had been getting creamed by the Texas Rangers at home. In fact, through the first two and a half innings the Bombers were losing 10-1. But they never gave up, slowly chipping away at the deficit. The Yanks were able to knot the game at 12 before the ninth inning, only for Texas to plate a run on a Rod Barajas double and take a 13-12 lead going into the Yanks’ final set of at-bats.

When it looked as though the rally was for naught, Posada clubbed a game-winning two-run home run in the bottom of the ninth off Rangers’ closer Akinori Otsuka to complete the comeback and give the Yankees a serious come-from-behind, 14-13 win.

Posada drove in five of the Yanks’ 14 runs and also showed off his strength, as he survived a collision at home plate with future teammate Mark Teixeira. Posada nailed Teixeira at home plate for an out, but after the game admitted it was the hardest he had ever been hit.

“I never played football in my life,” Posada told the press after the game.

 “But I think that’s what it feels like.”

2007 Resurgence

 

One could argue that by age 35 most catchers are reaching the so-called “downhill side” of their careers. Their offensive numbers seem to dwindle and they just aren’t the same players they were at, let’s say, age 25.

That never happened to the Yankee catcher.

In 2007 Posada recorded the highest batting average of his career, securing a BA of .338. He also posted the highest slugging percentage of his career with .543 and for the first time since 2003 he made the All-Star team.

The rest of his numbers also looked solid: 20 homers, 90 RBIs, 91 runs scored, 42 doubles, and he even stole two bases.

With his ’07 power show he became the first catcher in MLB history to average .330 or better, record at least 40 doubles, hit 20 homers, and knock in at least 90 runs in a single season.

2007 was a renaissance year for the backstop, and you might say Posada turned 35 into the new 25.

Even the Red Sox Want to be Yankees

In a little comic relief, Posada starred in an ESPN commercial with hated Yankee killer David Ortiz.

When I first saw this, I couldn’t get enough of it.

The First Home Run

After the 2008 season wrapped, the Yanks moved from their beloved cathedral to their new house across the street. They started the 2009 season on the road, but on April 16 it was time for Opening Day in the new ballpark in the Bronx vs. the Cleveland Indians – and it was a day of firsts.

Babe Ruth hit the first home run in the old Yankee Stadium, and in the fifth inning Posada became the first player to homer in the new Yankee Stadium. He took a pitch off Cliff Lee deep to centerfield, a poetically just shot that landed in the netting above Ruth’s monument.

Unfortunately the Yanks had a bad day, dropping their first game at home 10-2. After the game Posada was proud to have done what Ruth did in terms of christening the ballpark, but was unhappy with the final score.

“I’m going to remember the home run, no question about it,” he told the press. “But right now it’s a little disappointing.”

Yankee manager Joe Girardi could not have been happier that his successor was the first player to homer in the new Stadium.

“For Jorgie to hit the first home run…he’s been here a long time and he’s meant a lot to this franchise. I was extremely happy for him.”   

2009 Walk-Offs

Resiliency (noun) –  the ability to recover from, or adjust easily to, change or misfortune.

Resilient (adjective) – the ability to withstand, or recover quickly from, difficult conditions.

There is no better way to define the 2009 New York Yankees.

‘09 was a magical season for the Bombers. Solid pitching, all-around hitting, and if the score was close late in the game, you could almost be certain the Yankees were going to win.

The Yanks played the LA Angels at home on May 1, and squandered away a 4-0 lead when the Halos plated six runs in the sixth. They added three in the seventh and it seemed as though the Yankees were well on their way to an inevitable loss to the Angels, the only team in baseball with a lifetime winning record against the Bombers.

Not on Posada’s watch.

The Empire struck back in the eighth scoring four runs, setting the stage for one of their many comeback victories. Posada came up to bat in the bottom of the ninth with Teixeira and Angel Berroa aboard, and whacked a two-run game-winning single to finish the game, his first walk-off hit of the year.

When it was all said and done teammate A.J. Burnett gave Posada a whipped cream pie to the face, a tradition that became custom after every walk-off Yankee victory.

And there were more pie orders to fill.  

On July 4 the Yanks hosted the Toronto Blue Jays and played them to a 5-5 tie into extra innings. In the bottom of the 12th Posada came up and singled home Alex Rodriguez, giving the Yanks a 6-5 walk-off win on America’s (and George Steinbrenner’s) birthday.

Another win, another pie.

The game-winner may have been huge but it wasn’t all Posada did in that game. In the fourth he smacked a solo round-tripper, which at that point in the game gave the Yanks a 3-2 lift over the Jays.

A Cushion in Game Two

The Yankees’ resilient nature brought them to the World Series in 2009 for the 40th time and the first time since 2003. They squared off with the Philadelphia Phillies and in Game Two (after dropping the first game of the Fall Classic) the Bombers needed a win at home.

Facing a familiar adversary, Pedro Martinez, the Yanks trailed 1-0 heading into the bottom of the fourth. Teixeira came up and knotted the game at one with a solo homer. Hideki Matsui followed suit, breaking the tie with a solo home run of his own in the sixth.

Clinging to a small 2-1 lead in the seventh, Posada gave the Yanks a little breathing room. He hit a seeing-eye single off reliever Chan Ho Park to plate Jerry Hairston, Jr. and the Yanks went ahead, 3-1.

They would win Game Two by the same count.

The Texas Two-Step

In June of 2010 Posada had a chance to flex his muscles.

On June 12 in an interleague matchup at home vs. the Houston Astros, he clubbed a grand slam off Wandy Rodriguez in the bottom of the third, breaking a 2-2 tie to give the Yanks a 6-2 lead. They went on to win 9-3 on the strength of Posada’s go-ahead trip to granny’s house.

And he was just getting warmed up.

The very next day, June 13, he crushed another grand slam in the fifth inning off Brian Moehler, giving his team a sizeable 7-1 lead. The Bombers once again were en route to another win, a 9-5 decision over the Astros.

With his two slams in two days, Posada became the first Yankee since Bill Dickey in 1937 to homer with the bases loaded in consecutive games. Ironically enough, Dickey was also a catcher.

A Bittersweet Home Run

On Aug. 22, 2010 vs. the Seattle Mariners at home, the Yankees practically had the game won in the fourth inning. Austin Kearns hit a solo homer in the fourth, which was pretty much all the offense the Bombers needed because CC Sabathia was in shut-down mode, setting down the Mariners hitters one by one.

The game turned into a stinker for Seattle in the fifth when Robinson Cano clubbed a grand slam. The Yanks added three runs in the sixth to distance themselves even further from Seattle, who did not put up any runs in the game.

The Mariners eventually called on Brian Sweeney, a relief pitcher whom I have interviewed, in a mop-up situation.

Posada came to the plate to face Sweeney and took his changeup for a ride into the right field seats, giving the Yankees a 9-0 lead. The Bombers would add another run in the eighth on an RBI single off the bat of Marcus Thames, winning by a knockout score of 10-0.

For this writer it was bittersweet. I was happy for Posada; that he hit a home run for my favorite team, yet at the same time I was unhappy and I felt bad. I would have liked to see Sweeney maybe get a strikeout, being that he and I both came from the same college.

From the experience, I can say this: it feels weird wanting to simultaneously root for both the pitcher and the batter.  

The Last Stand

2011 was a rollercoaster of sorts for Posada. There were ups and downs, lefts and rights. He was removed as the Yanks’ everyday catcher and made to be the team’s designated hitter. Everyone knows about the mountain made of the molehill when he took himself out of the game on May 14 against the Boston Red Sox, and he was limited at best when it came to playing.

On Aug. 13, his first start since the benching incident, he was 3-for-5 with a grand slam and six RBIs. It marked the 10th slam of his career and with it he passed Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra on the all-time Yankee grand slams list.

Later in the month on Aug. 25 Posada played second base for the first time in his career, fielding the position in the ninth inning. He recorded the final out in the Yanks’ 22-9 win over the Oakland Athletics, cleanly taking a grounder and completing the 4-3 putout.

He might have had a perfect frame at second base, but on Sept. 10 against the LA Angels he returned to familiarity. Russell Martin was injured behind the plate by a foul tip and Francisco Cervelli was unavailable to catch due to concussion-like symptoms. Girardi had no choice but to allow Posada to catch – and he made it count, throwing out Howie Kendrick attempting to swipe second base in the third.

The Yankees made the postseason for the 16th time in Posada’s career and for his last playoff series, he performed extraordinarily well. He recorded six hits – one of which was a triple – scored four runs, drew four walks, and at the DH position notched a .429 batting average with a .579 on-base percentage.

Not bad for his last hurrah.

The Yankees and their fans will never forget Jorge Posada. He spent his entire career in pinstripes, somewhat of a rarity these days; not a lot of players in this day and age remain with one team their entire career.

Girardi, who has always been close to Posada, credits him for a lot of the strength the Yankees showcased throughout the years.

“He’s been a big part of the Yankees since really 1997, and (a big part of) the success that we’ve had here.”

Truer words were never spoken.

Friend and teammate Derek Jeter once said Posada would make a great baseball manager someday.

Who knows. Posada succeeded Girardi once in his life – as the Yankees’ everyday catcher. Maybe in the future he will succeed him as Yankee skipper.

I’m not going to try and argue right now about whether or not Posada is worthy of the Hall of Fame. It doesn’t matter to me; whether he makes the Hall of Fame or not, he’ll always be a real Yankee soldier in my eyes.

Yankee Yapping would like to thank Jorge Posada for all the memories and congratulate him on a wonderful career. I don’t know if the team will be the same without him, but nonetheless, we love him.

THANK YOU, JORGE.

World Series Game 6 and the 27th Title!

 

 

World Series!!!

 

We did it…I…I really don’t even know what to say. I am truly speechless.

 

The Yankees defeated the Phillies 7-3 in Game Six of the World Series to capture their 27th World Championship. A wonderful, strong, winning season capped off with a World Title in the first year in our new ballpark.

 

What a wonderful, wonderful feeling. A feeling we all haven’t had since 2000.

 

I had been saying from the beginning of the fall classic that the Yankees were probably going to win in six games. Now, I don’t usually like to make predictions, as I have said before, but that was my best guess: Yankees in six.

 

But let me tell you all a true, almost scary story before Game Six.

 

I am a senior in College at this point in my life, obviously studying journalism. I attended my sports reporting class last night, mostly discussing the World Series with my fellow students and my professor. Well, after an interesting discussion, class ended.

 

I got in my car and made my way home to watch the World Series. As I’m driving on the highway, I notice a school bus in front of me. As most of you may or may not remember, all school buses are numbered, all numbers on the back of the bus.

 

 


Bus 

Of all the numbers that there could’ve been, what number was the bus? 27. I am not lying and I am dead serious. 27, right in front of me for quite a few miles up the Taconic State Parkway in New York.

 

Coincidence? I didn’t think so. This eerie feeling came over me as I was driving; chills went up and down my spine. One thought popped into my mind: “The Yankees are going to do it. I know it. There’s a reason that bus was in front of me.”

 

When I got home, I just smiled and laughed. The game hadn’t even started yet, but I knew what was going to happen; maybe not the score, maybe not every specific detail, but I swear to God I KNEW the Yankees were NOT losing this game!!!

 

So eventually the game began and…well…I guess the only way to describe it was the “Hideki Matsui Hitting Show.”

 

 


Hideki Matsui hits a home run in the second inning of game six 

Godzilla knocked in six RBIs in game six, two of which came on a two-run homer in the bottom of the second off the Yankees’ favorite son Pedro Martinez. It was Matsui’s third home run in the World Series and second that came off Martinez.

 

But Matsui was just getting warmed up.

 

In the next inning, Godzilla singled to knock in Derek Jeter and Johnny Damon and in the fifth he doubled to score Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira. No one could get Matsui out, it seemed.

 

And for his efforts in this entire World Series, Matsui was named Most Valuable Player. He deserved it. Three Homers, a .747 batting average, and six RBIs in the clinching game. Yes, I’d say that’s MVP worthy. Domo Arigato, Mr. Matsui!

 

 


Hideki Matsui won 2009 World Series MVP 

Congrats Godzilla! (Remember, he also won another prestigious award–the Yankee Yapping Comeback Player of the Year Award!)

 

Teixeira was responsible for the only other RBI not registered by Matsui, as he singled in the fifth to score Jeter.

 

And who else was on the mound to close it out but Andy Pettitte, the winningest pitcher in postseason history. Everyone was concerned because Pettitte was pitching on three days rest for this first time since 2006, but those concerns were not well-founded. To be honest, I couldn’t even tell the difference.

 

The veteran lefty pitched 5 2/3 innings and gave up three earned runs on four hits. He walked five and struck out three. His line may not have indicated an overly impressive start, but I think he did great and gave the Bronx Bombers a good chance to win.

 

And they did, like they usually always do when he pitches. I mean, Pettitte was the winning pitcher when they’ve clinched the ALDS and ALCS this year…what’s one more?

 

The Phillies scored two of their three runs on an opposite-field homer run by Ryan Howard in the top of the sixth, his first home run in the World Series.

 

Sorry to say, but too little, too late, Howard.

 

Jimmy Rollins, who erroneously predicted the Phillies to win the fall classic in five games (and is probably eating his words right now) knocked in the Phillies’ first run with a sacrifice fly in the top of the third.

 

Well, thanks to some solid bullpen help from Joba Chamberlain and Damaso Marte, the Yankees bridged the gap to Mariano Rivera, who came in to get five outs.

 

Did he get all five of them? Of course he did! And the Yankees are Champs again!!!

 

Celebrate!!!! 

 

The team dog pile on the infield, a victory lap around the field proudly waving the 2009 Championship flag, and hoisting the Championship Trophy. Doesn’t get any better than that, does it?

 

I laughed. I cried. I jumped up and down. My heart overjoyed, my fists pumping in the air. I got that feeling; the feeling that comes over a man when he gets exactly what he desires. My phone was blowing up; calls, texts, people clicking the like button on my Facebook status, which read:

 

 A.J. Martelli is in tears of joy :’) THE YANKEES ARE KINGS OF BASEBALL!!!! 27!!!!! “WEEEEEE AREE THE CHAMPIONS, MY FRIEND! WE’LL KEEP ON FIGHTIN’ TILL THE END! NO TIME FOR LOSERS, ‘CAUSE WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS…OF THE WORLD!!!” 2009 was the Year of the Pinstripes. In a perfect world we’d ALL be Yankees! I am so proud of my team. SO proud. It was destiNYY.

 

Stephen, an old friend of mine from grade school, posted as his status:

 

“Time for every person in New York to jump on the Yankee bandwagon and say ‘my boys did it.’ I think the only person who has any right to say anything about it is A.J. Martelli. He posts about every game because he lives in blue and white. I hope he gets to see this.”

 

Oh, I did see it. And it made me feel great, because it is true. Then I turned to my 26 Time World Series jacket, which is now obselete. “Guess I’ll need a new one,” I said with a laugh.

 


 

What a way to end this year!

 

Another thing I’d like to point out was the date. It was on Nov. 4, 2001 that the Yankees’ World Series magic vanished in the Arizona desert. The last night of the Yankee Dynasty of the late ’90s. Since that night, the Yanks had not won a World Title.

 


Nov. 4, 2001 was the last night of the Yankee Dynasty 

 

That is of course until Nov. 4, 2009. Perhaps the first night of the new Yankee Dynasty.

 

 

 

 

Two members of the core four, Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera, hold the World Series Trophy

 

There was something strange about this night. Seeing that bus with 27 on it, watching Matsui practically single-handedly crush the Phillies’ dreams of repeating as Champions, and winning the title back on the same exact date we lost it nine years ago.

 

And even the fact that 2009 was the new Yankee Stadium’s first year, and when the original Stadium opened back in 1923, the Yankees won the World Series for the first time.

 

Not to mention, I checked the Yankee Yapping Facebook fan page to update the status…and at the time the Yankees won the Championship, there were precisely 400…and 27 fans.

 

Forces were at work, I believe that. This night happened for a reason. There ARE baseball gods and they were working tonight.

 

It has been a remarkable year; the year of the Yankees. 103 wins during the regular season, 114 overall…this was the only way to end it.

 

I would like to thank everyone who read my blog, there will be plenty more entries over the off-season, I promise you that. For right now, I would like everyone to ENJOY this!!! A World Series victory was the goal and our team reached it.

 

I’d also like to thank the 2009 Yankees for the season of a lifetime. I’m sure there will be many people (myself included) who will write about the ’09 Yankees. They are certainly a group of special players, and at one time (in June) I even described them as a “group of warriors that never quit.”

 

They are warriors and they never did quit. They took it all the way.

 

It’s been one hell of a ride, my friends. Thanks to all!

 

GO YANKEES!!! We made it to 27 and victory is ours!!!

 


The Yankees have won their 27th title 

World Series Game 5

 

World Series!!!

 

That was almost awesome. Almost.

Showing signs of life and fighting back in the ninth inning, the Yankees lost 8-6 in what came to be a close game five of the World Series.

 

You would think when the Yankees jumped out to a quick, 1-0 lead in the top of the first that would give A.J. Burnett some courage and motivation to pitch well.

 

No such luck, whatsoever.

 

Burnett lasted only two-plus innings and was charged with six earned runs on four hits. He walked four and struck out two.

 

 


A.J. Burnett did not make it out of the third inning in game five 

It is amazing how hot/cold Burnett can be; in game two he went out and absolutely puzzled the Phillies, giving up only one run on four hits over seven outstanding innings of work. In game five he got absolutely shellacked.

 

Well, maybe he can regroup and come back a little stronger in 2010, because that will be the next time we see him pitch, unless he comes on in relief in gave six or (if necessary) game seven of the World Series. I don’t see that happening, however.

 

Chase Utley, the peskiest thorn in the Yankees’ side right now, took Burnett deep in the bottom of the first for a three-run homer, putting the Phils up 3-1 after the Yankees took a 1-0 lead on an RBI double by Alex Rodriguez in the top half of the inning.

 

 


 

Just like that our lead was gone. And it’s not like Utley was happy with one homer.

 

Later in the seventh, Utley went yard again, this time a solo shot off Phil Coke, pushing the Phillies even further ahead. It was Utley’s fifth home run of the World Series and he tied Reggie Jackson for most home runs in World Series play.

 

Raul Ibanez joined Utley with a solo shot of his own in the seventh, his first home run of the World Series. Those two solo homers in the inning proved to be the difference in the game, so I really wish Coke hadn’t served them up.

 

The Phillies scored three runs in the third inning, receiving RBIs from Jayson Werth, Ibanez, and Carlos Ruiz, who just plastered Burnett and the Yankee bullpen in the frame. The third inning was seemingly the nail in the Yankees’ coffin, but they did battle back.

 

With the tying run at the plate in the top of the ninth, Ryan Madson struck Mark Teixeira out swinging to end the game. A really, really tough loss because had the Yankees somehow rallied back and won the game (like they have done countless time in 2009) they’d be World Champs at this moment.

 

 


Mark Teixeira ended game five with a strikeout 

Down by six runs going into the top of the eighth, the Yankees scored three in the frame to make the game interesting. Rodriguez hit a two-run double and Robinson Cano knocked in a run on a sacrifice fly to make it 8-5, proving that even when they’re down a bunch, the Yankees can fight back and put pressure on the opposing team.

 

Think about it: the Yankees were down 6-2 at one point in this game. In the top of the fifth, Eric Hinske scored on a groundout by Johnny Damon and at this point, with the Yanks down by four and Cliff Lee still in the game, I thought we had no chance.

 

But they at least showed life and battled back instead of just giving up.

 

Jorge Posada scored in the ninth as Derek Jeter grounded into a double play that basically ended the Yankee rally and the game ended not long after that. How often does Jeter do that? Not often. So we can’t put a lot of blame on the captain for that.

 

We can however put a ton of blame on Burnett for this one. He gave the Yankees no chance to win with the way he pitched and even working with an early lead could not get the job done. He showed a lot of inconsistency, there’s no question.

 

There are excuses he could make up, like pitching on three days rest threw him off, but he didn’t make those types excuses after the game. And even if he did, no one would believe him. I have to say, Burnett was an enigma this year; almost like the 2007 version of Mike Mussina–you never knew if you were getting a good or bad start from him.

 

It’s too bad that Burnett’s last start had to be so horrible. Not the best way to end his season, that’s for sure. If I had to give Burnett an overall grade for this year, it would be a C+. He struggled early on, but then hit a hot streak, then a cold streak, then a lukewarm streak.

 

Two of his five playoff starts were acceptable, one was mediocre, one was pure genius, and I think he wishes his final start last night never even happened. Hot and cold, just like I said.

 

When a pitcher goes out and tosses a quality start (which is defined as pitching at least six innings and giving up three runs or less) I generally tend not to put a lot of blame on the pitcher. A quality start means that the pitcher gave the team a chance to win the game, and even if the team loses, the pitcher still gave the team an opportunity to win and demonstrated good stuff.

 

For the most part, Burnett has given the Yankees quality this year, even though he did not win a lot of games, or at least as many games as CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte. There were a few games Burnett could’ve won, but his offense did not give him run support or the bullpen did not hold it for him to register the win.

 

 


A.J. Burnett gets a C+ grade for his overall performance in '09 

As far as last night goes, I think it was the second biggest start of Burnett’s career. The biggest had to be game two, because it was a must-win and the Yankees needed that game; if they had not won game two of the World Series and Burnett had not been as good as he was, they would have been in grave danger of losing it.

 

Going into Philly down 0-2…not a pretty picture.

 

The reason last night was the second biggest start of Burnett’s career…well, it’s obvious: the Yankees would be World Champs right now if he had executed the right way and pitched a good game. He didn’t and they lost, that’s the bottom line.

 

But for all the fans today who are saying things like, “Burnett is horrible,” or “he has no business on this team,” you all need to get a grip on reality. It is better that he had his bad start in game five rather than game two when they needed to win.

 

You have to look at the big picture and what Burnett did to help the team win all year; were his critics saying he stunk when he stood toe-to-toe with Josh Beckett and one-hit the Red Sox on Aug. 7? (The game the Yankees won in the 15th inning on a walk-off homer by A-Rod)

 

Did they say Burnett had no business on the team when he embarrassed the Mets by one-hitting them on June 27? Or what about just this past Thursday when he won game two of the World Series? Did he suck then?

 

No, he was brilliant. It’s funny how all Burnett’s critics have nothing to say when he performs well and lambaste him when he doesn’t do well. I am saying he did not do well in game five of the World Series and gave the Yankees no chance of winning.

 

But that doesn’t make him a bad pitcher. Burnett is still capable of winning games and out-dueling some of the best pitchers out there. So we can all layoff A.J. until 2010.

 

Also, I’d like to add to my defense of Burnett to his critics…how much better would you do? You think you could go out and pitch in front of over 50,000 people and millions watching at home in the World Series? Let’s see how you do. I’m sure you could do so much better (boatloads of sarcasm in that statement)

 

Hopefully he comes back next year a little stronger, and he got his first year in New York out of the way, which is sometimes what newcomers to the Yankees need; I mean before Chien-Ming Wang won 19 games two seasons in a row, he went 8-5 in his first year. So we’ll see how Burnett responds. I still believe in him and I think he will be fine.

 

At any rate, we lost a game and we go back home to the Bronx to play game six tomorrow night, no biggie. Being up three games allows a little more margin for error. And I guess you can say when in doubt, turn to the winningest pitcher in postseason history, Andy Pettitte.

 

 


Andy Pettitte will look to clinch the World Series tomorrow night. 

He will take the mound against the Yankees’ favorite son and game two loser, Pedro Martinez.

 

Pettitte was on the mound when the Yankees won the pennant on Oct. 25 and has been in this spot before. He has won more series-clinching games than any other pitcher in Yankees’ history, so this is perfect for him. It seems like just yesterday I remember him taking the hill in game four of the 1998 World Series, a game he and the Yankees won to capture the World Title.     

 

The only concern I have is that he will be throwing on three days rest. Hopefully it won’t make much of a difference. I know Pettitte is old school and works best on regular rest, but I think he can go out in front of Yankee Universe and do it the right way at the new house.

 

Plus, I just think it would make so much sense winning the whole thing vs. Pedro….

 

 

Hey Pedro! 

I know it was a rough loss last night, but remember Yankees fans, we are up 3-2 and the Phillies are still facing elimination. It’s not the other way around. The pressure is still on them and thank goodness we are not in their ballpark anymore. Not playing at home was beginning to annoy me.

 

Well, tomorrow night could very well be it. I’ll be back after game six with more highlights and analysis.

 

Until then, Go Yankees!!!

 

The Yankees are so close to their 27th Title!!!

World Series Game 2

 

 

World Series!!!

Well, I first want to say I didn’t get the chance to blog about Game 1 (circumstances were not allowing me to–science tests stink!)

 

I guess it wasn’t worth blogging about anyway because it was not an overly exciting game; it was just Cliff Lee mowing down the Bronx Bombers in a 6-1 Yankee loss.

 

But Game 2 was a different story.

 

On Thursday night, the Yankees sort of broke out a little bit and topped the Phillies 3-1 in the second game of the World Series, evening the Fall Classic up at one game apiece.

 

Coming into this game I had heard so much trash talk about A.J. Burnett. Some people were even going as far as saying, “Hey, I wonder what Mike Mussina is doing tonight,” implying that Burnett was going to have a poor outing.

 

Well, he certainly shut every one of his naysayers up.

 

 


A.J. Burnett struck out 9 in his World Series debut 

The lanky right-hander went seven strong innings, giving up only one earned run on just four hits. Burnett walked two batters, one of which was intentional, and struck out nine Phillies.

 

The only run Burnett surrendered was an RBI single off the bat of Matt Stairs in the top of the second. After that it was basically the “A.J. Burnett Show,” because he really gave the fans quite a pitching performance.

 

The turning point (I would say) was in the top of the fourth inning when Jayson Werth was picked off on a snap throw by catcher Jose Molina. Burnett’s numbers after the pickoff were somewhat better than what he was putting up before it.

 

I also have to give Burnett a lot of credit for getting ahead of the hitters. 22 of the 26 batters he faced saw first-pitch strikes. It’s obvious when Burnett gets ahead of the hitters early in the count, he has a lot more confidence in his pitches and he is able to command and locate a lot better.

 

Many folks were quick to write Burnett off in Game 2, some even saying he would not pitch well before the game began. But he came out dealing like he was playing blackjack in Vegas.

 

And after the game Burnett said it was the most fun he had ever had on a baseball diamond. Well, I guess when you pick up your first career postseason win and it comes in the World Series at Yankee Stadium…what could be more fun than that?

 

Keep in mind the Yankees did not buy Burnett to be good. For the amount of money they spent on him, they bought him to be really good. And that’s exactly what he was last night. 

 

Burnett was opposed by “The Yankees’ son,” Pedro Martinez. The hated opposing hurler received boisterous chants of “Who’s your daddy” during warm-ups, long before he even toed the rubber.

 

 


Fans let Pedro have it 

But it’s not like Martinez was terrible. In fact, he was dealing, too.

 

The former three-time Cy Young Award winner pitched six innings and gave up three runs on six hits. He walked two and struck out eight.

 

Martinez really only made two mistakes, a pitch he left down for Mark Teixeira to crush for a solo homer in the bottom of the fourth and a curve ball down and in that Hideki Matsui was able to get a hold of and hook for another solo homer in the bottom of the sixth.

 

The Yankees were able to scratch one more run against Martinez on an RBI single from Jorge Posada in the seventh, but looking at the big picture, Martinez did give the Phils a quality start, going at least six innings and allowing three runs or less.

 

Martinez gave his team a chance to win and that’s the truth. He pitched very well.

 

Pedro thanks God after his quality start 

 

Both game two starters were just on last night and that was evidenced in what the cleanup hitters on both sides did. Both Burnett and Martinez were able to baffle the number four hitter in the lineup all night long.

 

Alex Rodriguez, who came into this series swinging a bat so hot it was probably on fire, was put away on strikes three times in game two. Martinez buckled his knees with probably the nastiest breaking ball he threw all night, striking A-Rod out looking in the bottom of the second.

 

 


A-Rod is 0-for-8 so far this World Series 

And then there was Ryan Howard, who completed the “golden sombrero” with four strikeouts last night. Burnett was able to figure out Howard, who smacked 45 homers in the 2009 regular season.

 

 


Ryan Howard struck out four times last night 

Rodriguez is now 0-for-8 in the World Series while Howard is just 2-for-9. Both teams have (so far) done a masterful job of containing the cleanup hitters.

 

Martinez had a lot of fun with the press conference after the game, stating that if he played for the Yankees, he would probably “be a king over here.”

 

A king? Well, I don’t know about that, Pedro. Yes, if he had started his career with the Yankees, of course history would be a lot different. He would probably be looked at as a hero and a special player (like he is in Boston).

 

But it would also be different if Babe Ruth began his career on the Yankees and went to the Red Sox and won all the Championships for them instead of the Yanks. What’s your point, Pedro?

 

At any rate, I am glad my initials are A.J. right now; I’m very proud of Burnett, he represented our initials extremely well with his Game 2 dominance. (Even though he is Allen James and I am Anthony Joseph…well, we both use our initials, anyway!)

 

Game 3 will be played Saturday night in Philadelphia. Andy Pettitte will make the start for the Yankees against Cole Hamels.

 

Pettitte, the winningest pitcher in postseason history and the winner in game six of the ALCS for the Yankees, will look to put the Yankees ahead in the Fall Classic. The veteran lefty has given the Yankees quality in each of his three postseason starts and owns a record of 2-0 this October.

 

Hamels on the other hand has been struggling greatly, posting an ERA of 6.75 this postseason. He has surrendered five homers in the ’09 playoffs and opponents are batting .328 against the southpaw. Hamels has not even pitched past the fifth inning in any of his starts this postseason.

 

Looks like the odds are favoring the Yankees in Game 3, but I would not count Philly out. Game 3 could be the best game we have seen yet and I can only hope the Yankees pull through.

 

The Yankees could make it a very Happy Halloween for the fans on Saturday night, if they come away with a Game 3 win in Philly.

 

Before I wrap things up, I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed Jay-Z and Alicia Keys’ performance of Empire State of Mind” before game two last night. They both did great, but…where was Alicia Keys’s Yankee apparel? Jay-Z, all his background singers and his band had Yankee gear on. What gives, Alicia?

 

Jay Z and Alicia Keys performed before Game 2 of the World Series 

 

Not that she didn’t look very pretty (in fact beautiful) in that purple outfit, but come on! Show some pride in the Yankees!!! At least put on a Derek Jeter jersey…I mean…all the girls love Jeter!

 

Well say your prayers, Yankee fans. We’ll need them for the rest of this series. Three more wins until we reach “Baseball Heaven.” 

 

“Our Father, who art in the Bronx, baseball be thy name. Thy Kingdom come, World Series won, as the Yankees did in ’77. May God be with the Yankees. Amen.”  

 


Are the Gods shining down on the new Yankee Stadium...?

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