Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Yankees: Pain, Rain, and The Stain

Tuesday night's Spring-Winter schizophrenic rain/snow storm wiped out the Yankees first of two with the Chicago Cubs. A day-night doubleheader (really a pair of single games with different start times and an akward reference) is scheduled for today, Wednesday. If you can only make it to one, choose the 1:00 p.m. start. It's plenty cold out, but you will not be warm tonight.

Just like the weather, the Yankees have had some ups and downs the first month of the season. But after they took three of four from Boston, the semi-Bronx Bombers were tied for first place in the AL East with a 7-6 record. However, it hasn't come without a price.  Mark Teixeira got hurt about two seconds into the season and hopes to return from a hamstring injury on May 1.

Francisco Cervelli is well acquainted with the DL. He'll have plenty of time to treat his Grade-2 hamstring strain, after being placed on the 60-day DL for the injury he suffered Sunday night. It remains to be seen if the injury is that bad or if the Yankees just had to find a way of opening spots on the 40-man roster. John Ryan Murphy, formerly known as J.R. Murphy (against his will), was called up to back up Brian McCann. He should get the start in tonight's game.

In addition to Cervelli, Derek Jeter missed the last two games against Boston with a sore quad, Brian Roberts sat out with a sore lower back, and McCann took a Red Sox ricochet off his hand.

Tests came back negative on McCann and he's in the lineup for the first game on Wednesday. Jeter is not, but is expected to play the nightcap. Roberts has not been DL'ed, but is not expected to play at all today. Roberts told the media he could " if needed", but is on pain meds and Joe Girardi wants him to have additional rest. The Yankees brought up Scott Sizemore and he's got the start at third base this afternoon, while Yangervis Solarte will play second base. Dean Anna (shortstop) and Kelly Johnson (first base) fill out the rest of the infield.

David Robertson feels he is on track to return from the DL on April 22. Robertson has been sidelined with a strained groin since April 7. Shawn Kelley and David Phelps have picked up saves in his absence.

All eyes will be on Michael Pineda tonight, after he was accused by the media of using a substance on his pitching hand in his last start. Pineda had, what appeared to be, pine tar on his pitching hand for part of last Thursday's start against Boston. The substance disappeared after it was discussed on the game's broadcast.

The Red Sox made no accusations of cheating, primarily because their own pitcher that night, Clay Buchholz, has been rumored to use several substances during a game. With only circumstantial evidence, MLB decided not to mete out any punishment.

Monday, April 7, 2014

D-Rob to the DL

Sunday afternoon in Toronto, David Robertson pitched for the third time in four days. It was then that he felt something uncomfortable in his groin.

The Yankees' new closer was placed on the 15-Day disabled list Monday afternoon with a grade-1 groin strain. Even if he had been healthy, Robertson would not have been available for the Yankees home opener Monday with Baltimore. Shawn Kelley closed out the Yankees' 4-2 win over the Orioles.

Robertson has been fragile throughout his Yankees career. He's been more effective pitching less than an inning per game and doesn't fare as well when he works too many times in a short period. Two years ago, he had a chance to close when Mariano Rivera tore his ACL, but strained an oblique muscle and landed on the disabled list. Rafael Soriano took advantage of his opportunity and saved 42 games.

Because of Robertson's career to date, the Yankees may eventually look elsewhere this season for a more durable player for the 9th inning. Of course, it would also be a boost to the Yankees set-up portion of the game if Robertson returned to his prior role.

In the meantime, manager Joe Girardi will likely rely on Kelley and Matt Thornton, who had some closer experience with the Chicago White Sox, to finish games out.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Jeter Laces 'Em Up For Last Opening Day

Opening Day is a magical time in baseball. Check that, it's a magical time in life. Despite all the crappy weather we've endured in the northeast - not all the snow has melted yet - it feels like it's 80 degrees and sunny when baseball starts. (And if you must, you can crank the heat up to 80 degrees in your living room).

This year though, the opener feels weird, and not just because it's in Houston. I will stop thinking Houston is still in the National League. I will stop thinking Houston is still in the National League. I will stop thinking Houston is still in the National League.

It's the last season opener for Derek Jeter. What? Get out of here. He's like, what..30, 31 tops, right? How did the skinny kid with the fade haircut and the supermodel on his arm get to be the solid, nearly faded-hairline, 40-year old (in June) with the supermodel on his arm?

Though I hate the phrase, "the core four" (not as much as "Quan-Gor-Mo"), Jeter is the last of the quad to be in the lineup and that ends this year.  We lost Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte to retirement last year. Just like that, two of the three remaining "Fantastic Four" joined Jorge Posada in street clothes. (Mo would definitely be Mr. Fantastic in that superhero reboot.)

You hear people, especially Joe Torre, wear out the word "special" in describing Jeter, but his play on the field and how carries himself off of it, have been just that. From his rookie-Opening Day  home run and over the shoulder catch to the flip play to his dive in the stands to his passing Lou Gehrig as the Yankees all-time hits leader to his 3,000th hit and of course his five World Series rings. And of course there is his Turn-2 Foundation.

Could there be a ring number six in the last hurrah? It's going to be tough, though he has a lot better chance than Mariano and Pettitte had last year. The Yankees spent a boatload this winter to re-energize the team, just as they did after the 2008 post-season swing and a miss.

Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann, Masahiro Tanaka, and Carlos Beltran woke the Yankees' payroll department out of their 2013 slumber. The pitching staff of CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Ivan Nova, Tanaka, and Michael Pineda could be fantastic, if all are healthy, Sabathia learns to pitch with less speed, and Tanaka is the real deal.

The Yankees offense should be good, but again, health is a big issue, particularly when discussing Ellsbury. Beltran's knees are another matter for concern as well and of course, there's Mark Teixeira's wrist.

There's also no Robinson Cano, which is still weird to me. He's already getting obliterated by Yankees fans for leaving, which is as hypocritical as it can get since the Yankees have thrown their money around for years. No Yankees fans complained about that and they shouldn't when the reverse happens.

But back to Jeter. My thoughts are much the same as with Rivera last year. Enjoy every moment, whether good or bad. It's his last time around the diamond.

Be sure to check out Designated for Assignment for Jim Monaghan's discussion with Harold Reynolds on Derek Jeter.

Yankees Throw In The Towel On Nunez

Too many botched plays caused Nunez's demise in NY.

Eduardo Nunez had the tools and he had the talent. He just couldn't make it happen in the Major Leagues as a Yankee. And in a short time, he will no longer be a Yankee.

The Yankees designated Nunez for assignment Monday afternoon, in order to make room on the 40-man roster for Yangervis Solarte. With Derek Jeter sidelined for nearly the entire 2013 season, Nunez had the opportunity to establish himself, but his OPS was under .700 and he continued to stumble in the field. He committed 12 errors at shortstop and made another pair at third base. In 2011, the numbers were similar - 14 errors at shortstop and 6 at third base.

In Spring Training this year, he faced stiff competition from Solarte and Dean Anna for a utility spot on the team. More than anything, your utility infielders must be solid defenders, and Nunez couldn't provide that. The Yankees waited until this past weekend to announce that Solarte had made the team over Nunez. Solarte took advantage of his situation with hot bat in the exhibition games, but today's move was more about Nunez than anything else.

Fans and the media like to talk about how Nunez was one of the reasons the Yankees couldn't swing a deal with Seattle for Cliff Lee in 2010. The Mariners wanted Ivan Nova and/or Nunez, and the Yankees reportedly said no. However, it's ridiculous to assume the Yankees would have won the World Series again had they acquired Lee. There's also no saying Seattle might not have pulled out of the deal and made a trade with Texas anyway.

The Yankees have 10 days to trade Nunez or he'll be released outright. He'll definitely get a shot with some organization, who might convert him into an outfielder. Something the Yankees should have done a long time ago.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Yankees Aim To Give The Captain One More Ring (D4A)

The 2013 New York Yankees season was rife with poor performance, injuries, moves made in desperation, steroid allegations, and a roster of maybes, has-beens, and never-weres. Owner Hal Steinbrenner wanted general manager Brian Cashman to get payroll under control so that the team would fit under the 2014 luxury tax threshold of $189MM. With injuries and payroll cuts, sub-par players like catcher Chris Stewart and journeyman infielders like Reid Brignac and Luis Cruz littered the 25-man roster last season.

Manager Joe Girardi did his best to push all the right buttons, but many days he simply ran out of buttons to push. The team managed to rack up 85 wins and finished in third place the AL East, but their record fell well short of a playoff appearance. It was just the second time since 1995 that the Yankees missed the post-season.

With Derek Jeter's announcement that this will be his final season, the moves made by the Yankees this off-season could give him one final chance to add to his championship ring collection (He has five).  More importantly, Jeter needs to remain healthy after ankle and quad injuries limited him to 17 games in 2013.
The Yankees upgraded at catcher when they signed veteran Brian McCann to a five-year deal worth $85MM. The former Atlanta Brave hit 20 or more home runs during the last six seasons and should enjoy swinging at the short porch in right field this year.

Outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury, a member of the Boston Red Sox 2013 World Series championship, was persuaded to put on the pinstripes with a seven- year deal in excess of $152MM. (The deal could earn Ellsbury close to $169 if the Yankees exercise an 8th-year option.) There's no question that the Yankees overpaid for a player who has missed more games than he has played in two of the last four seasons and suffered a calf injury during the current Spring Training season. But, if healthy, he can steal 50 bases and hit 10-15 home runs.

Read the rest of the preview for Free at Designated For Assignment

Friday, March 7, 2014

Yogi Loses His Lifetime Love Carmen

A sad day for the Yankees family, but much more so for the Berra family. Carmen Berra, long time wife of Yankees legend Yogi Berra, passed away at an assisted living facility as the result of complications from the stroke she had suffered earlier this year.

The Berra's son Larry had this to say:
“She died peacefully -- she went the way she would have wanted to. We’re grateful that she and dad were able to spend some good time together (Thursday). I’m not just saying this because she was my mom, but she was one of the great women of all time.” 1
In addition to her beloved Yogi, to whom she was married for 65 years, she is survived by their sons - Larry, Dale, and Tim, and 11 grandchildren.

Hal Steinbrenner, managing general partner of the Yankees, released this statement:
On behalf of the entire New York Yankees organization, we offer our deepest condolences to the Berra family. Having known Yogi and Carmen for so long, it is almost impossible to imagine two people who complemented each other better than they did. We will always remember Carmen’s smile and sense of humor, and her kindness and generosity will be deeply missed by all who knew her.” 1
My condolences to the entire Berra family on their monumental loss.

1 - NY Daily News

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Yankees Get Gardner To Stay Awhile

Brett Gardner could have tested the free agent waters next year, but instead chose to stick around a little longer in New York. The Yankees and Gardner agreed to a four year contract extension worth $52MM on Sunday.

The Yankees went out of their comfort zone - they normally don't extend players that are already under contract - to get Gardner at a reasonable price.  GM Brian Cashman explained why.
"It's a demonstration from our end. We don't typically do this, but it shows the level of confidence, belief and trust in the type of person and player he is, and we're excited to know he's going to be part of this thing going forward."1
While Cashman may be saying all the right things about Gardner, the terms of the contract also make the left fielder a viable trade chip in the future should any of the touted outfield prospects (Slade Heathcott, Mason Williams, and Tyler Austin) pan out.  But Gardner wants to stay right where he is.
"I don't want to be anywhere else," Gardner told reporters. "There's no better place to play baseball than in New York. I've never been anywhere else. I got drafted here almost nine years ago, and I love it here. I love everybody in the organization, the coaching staff and all my teammates, and this is where I want to be."1
While I don't necessarily agree with the length of the deal, it was a smart move by the Yankees, especially considering how much money they have tied up going forward in Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann, and Masahiro Tanaka. By getting Gardner at a mere $12.5MM per year (there's a $12.5MM option in 2019 with a $2MM buyout), the Yankees will have more money to work with when players like Mark Teixeira come off the books.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Roberts Handed Second Base

I wouldn't be surprised if Brian Cashman held a lucky rabbit's foot, wore a four leaf clover around his neck, and said a novena or Hail Mary or two when Brian Roberts put ink to paper and signed his contract with the New York Yankees.

With Kelly Johnson also in camp, manager Joe Girardi announced that Roberts would be his starting second baseman when the team heads north (actually west to play the Houston Astros) to start the regular season. Roberts isn't expected to replace the production that the Yankees will miss from Robinson Cano, but they hope Roberts and others can collectively make up some of that ground.

A once quick-as-a-rabbit youngster, Roberts joins a team of older, injured players. Well, most of them were injured last year anyway. For Roberts it's been a myriad of injuries over the last several years.

Roberts suffered an abdominal strain in 2010 that kept him out  of the lineup from April to July and limited him to 59 games. (He also suffered from a herniated disc in his back during Spring Training in 2010.)

In May of 2011, Roberts hit the back of his head sliding into first base and suffered a serious concussion. He missed the rest of the 2011 season and didn't return to the Majors until June, 2012.  But he wasn't active for long.

Roberts hurt his groin in early July and was placed back on the DL. At the end of the month he opted for season ending hip surgery. During the off-season he also had surgery to repair a sports hernia. He played in 17 games, the lowest number of his career and the same number his new double play partner, Derek Jeter, played in his own injury plagued 2013 season.

In April, 2013 Roberts made another trip to the DL after he ruptured a tendon in a portion of hamstring behind his right knee and underwent surgery. It kept him out of an Orioles uniform until June 30. His 77 games played was the most action he saw over a four year stretch of injuries and surgeries, but his production was far below his norm. (.249/.312/.392 slash line)

The Yankees hope to see a glimpse of the former first round pick (50th overall out of U. of South Carolina in 1999). Roberts was a two-time All-Star who combined some pop with speed (90 stolen bases 2007-2008) and was often a Yankees killer. A typical season for Roberts saw 13 home runs, 64 RBI, 36 steals, 45 doubles, and 99 runs scored. 

In attempt to keep him healthy, Girardi may very well put the reins on Roberts when it comes to stolen base attempts and it will be interesting to see where he bats in the lineup with a pair of lead off men - Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner - already in the lineup.

The Yankees and Roberts don't care where he bats as long as he can stay healthy and productive.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Jeter To Retire After 2014 Season

Yankees fans are still reeling from the retirements after least season of five time World Series champions Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte. Now comes word that Derek Jeter will join them on the sidelines after this coming season. The Yankees' captain made the announcement on his Facebook page with a a lengthy letter.

I hightly doubt there will be a good-bye tour like Rivera's, but I'm sure Jeter will get big receptions and some gifts when the Yankees play on the road this season. Perhaps there will be a retirement ceremony at Yankee Stadium on the final day of the regular season, though I personally think Jeter would hate to do it, unless Rivera's day had a big influence on him.

Appreciate the 2014 season for it truly is the end of an era.

Friday, February 7, 2014

A-Rod Drops Suit Against MLB and MLBPA

Possibly sensing the loss of dollars in the long run, Alex Rodriguez dropped his suit against Major League Baseball and the players' assocation (MLBPA) on Friday.  Rodriguez had sounded tired of fighting and resigned when he spoke with media in Mexico back on January 16.
“I think that the year 2014 could be a big favor that [Major League Baseball has] done for me because I’ve been playing for 20 years without a timeout,” he said. “I think 2014 is a good year to rest mentally and physically and prepare for the future and begin a new chapter in my life.”
In response, his lawyers were quick to say that A-Rod would still be going forward with his appeal, but this afternoon's action flies in the face of that. MLB released the following statement.
"We have been informed that Alex Rodriguez has reached the prudent decision to end all of the litigation related to the Biogenesis matter. We believe that Mr. Rodriguez's actions show his desire to return the focus to the play of our great game on the field and to all of the positive attributes and actions of his fellow Major League Players. We share that desire."
A-Rod's lawyer Joseph Tacopina confirmed the suit was dropped.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Ralph Kiner, 91

Growing up in the Metropolitan area in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, two of the most legendary baseball players could  be seen and/or heard on New York Yankees and New York Mets broadcasts. Both had Hall of Fame baseball careers and both could have had their picture next to the word character in the dictionary.

Sadly, Mets' announcer Ralph Kiner joined Yankees player and announcer Phil "Scooter" Rizzuto today in God's ballpark today. He was 91 years of age. Kiner was one of the top sluggers of his era, but most people will remember him for his work on New York Mets games and his post-game show, "Kiner's Korner".

The Alhambra (CA) High School graduate signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1941. After a little more than two years in the minor leagues, Kiner served as a Navy pilot during World War II. He flew reconnaissance missions in the South Pacific looking for enemy submarines and ships and left active duty in December, 1945.

One year later the 23-year old was in the Major Leagues with the Pirates and became their primary left fielder. Though he led the National League in strikeouts (109), the rookie topped the NL with 23 home runs and also drove in 81 runs. Then he went on a tremendous seven year tear that included a six year streak in which he led the National League in home runs (seven years straight overall). He topped the half-century mark twice and eclipsed 40 home runs three times.

From 1947-1949, Kiner averaged 125 RBI and 48 home runs. He finished in the top 10 in the NL MVP voting five straight seasons, and led the league in OPS ('47, '49, '51)  and walks ('49, '51, '52) on three occasions. Unfortunately, the Pirates finished at or near the bottom of the NL in each of Kiner's best seasons.

About a quarter of the way into the 1953 season, he, Joe Garagiola and two others were dealt to the Chicago Cubs for six players and $150,000. Kiner adapted to the friendly confines of Wrigley Field and hit 28 home runs in 117 games the rest of the season as a Cubbie. (In addition to the seven he hit with Pittsburgh.)

Despite an OPS over .800 the next two seasons with the Cubs and Cleveland Indians, the 32-year old Kiner retired from baseball after 10 big league seasons. He never got the chance to play in the post-season, but the 7-time All-Star was selected by the Veterans Committee for induction in the baseball Hall of Fame in 1975.

After one year in the Chicago White Sox broadcast booth, Kiner joined the Mets crew and became a legend. He was a regular member of the Mets broadcast team until 2006, when at the age of 84, he reduced his schedule.  While across town, Rizzuto had his "Holy Cow!", Kiner's trademark was his frequent malaprops.. He would often combine and scramble players name. One Father's Day he wished everyone a Happy Birthday. While fans of opponents criticized him, it made him more beloved among Mets fans

Kiner suffered from Bell's Palsy, a stroke like illness, in 1998 that left him with slurred speech. But the fan favorite carried on and continued to make cameo appearances after the 2006 season. The Mets honored him with a day at Shea Stadium in 2007.

Kiner was married four times and is survived by his five children and 12 grand children. My condolences go out to his family and friends.

1 - NY Daily News

Thursday, January 30, 2014

With Tanaka Signed, Time For the Other Chips to Fall Into Place

Of course he's smiling, he's got a guaranteed contract.

The front offices of Major League Baseball teams around the country waited and waited. They waited until Japanese-born pitcher Masahiro Tanaka chose the team and the contract he would play for in his quest for success in the United States. With that done and pitchers and catchers reporting to Spring Training in a couple of weeks, it's time for the remaining free agent pitchers to find a new home or return to their existing ones.

Matt Garza didn't take long at all to decide on which team it would be (the Milwaukee Brewers), but it did take some time to get the contract finalized. With some concerns over lingering arm issues, the Brewers gave Garza a guaranteed four years and $50MM, incentives that could tack on another $4MM, and an option for 2018 that will give Garza the opportunity to earn $67MM when everything is said and the contract is done.

A.J. Burnett had trouble deciding if he wanted to play any more, but once he did the Baltimore Orioles decided to go (MLB Network's Peter Gammons tweeted) "all in" on the lanky right-hander. After the success Burnett had in the National League the last two seasons with Pittsburgh, you would think he would stay in the NL, but those offers may not be forthcoming.

FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal reported the Toronto Blue Jays have looked extensively at the medical records of Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana. The Blue Jays are hoping to make an official offer to at least one of them. Both have been hoping for long term, big money deals.

Bronson Arroyo has had his name brought up by many teams, but told ESPN"s Jayson Stark that he has yet to receive an official offer. He's baffled by the lack of action.
"I get [Clayton] Kershaw," Arroyo told "I get why he got all that money. But then you've got guys like Dice-K [Matsuzaka], who came over here and was good for the first couple years but then didn't pan out. And when he doesn't pan out, they all just forget and go on to the next guy who's not proven, and pay him. 
"Meanwhile, they forget about guys like me, who have done the job for the last eight or 10 years, and treat them like they've never done anything in this game. That's hard, man." 2
Scott Baker was an emerging star for the Minnesota Twins over the stretch of 2009-2011, but Tommy John surgery wiped out 2012 and most of 2013. The 32-year old signed a minor league deal with the Seattle Mariners and was given an invitation to spring training in his comeback attempt.

Journeymen Paul Maholm, Jason Hammel, and one time stud Tommy Hanson are all still available. Back end of the rotation starters Jerome Williams, Jason Marquis, and Roberto Hernandez (the former Fausto Carmona) are all still on the market as well. Either they are holding out for guaranteed money or teams are still waiting to sign them to minor league deals.

15 more days until the sound of ball thudding into catcher's mitt. I can't wait.

1 -
2 -

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Tanaka Joins Bullet Bob and Rags With Number 19

Masahiro Tanaka / MASAHIRO TANAKA

@ T_masahiro18

Masahiro Tanaka has made his second most important choice. He'll wear #19 as a member of the New York Yankees. It's a fine number with some excellent pitching tradition.

"Bullet Bob" Turley wore #19 when he starred in the 1958 World Series (Click here to see some great home movie footage on youtube.. Down three games to one to the Milwaukee Braves, Turley took the mound in Game 5 hoping to stave off elimination. At the very least he wanted to greatly improve on his Game 2 performance when he lasted one-third of an inning and gave up four earned runs. The Braves breezed to a 13-5 victory to take a 2-0 lead in games.

Turley not only stopped the Braves in Game 5, he dominated them. A complete game five-hit shutout spurred the Yankees on to a 7-0 win over Lew Burdette and forced a Game 6.

Whitey Ford had lost Games 1 and 4, so manager Casey Stengel gave a quick hook to the Yankees ace when the Bronx Bombers fell behind 2-1 in the 2nd inning. Yogi Berra's sac fly against fellow future Hall of Famer Warren Spahn tied the game in the 6th inning and it remained tied after nine innings.

The Yankees scored twice in the top of the 10th, with one of the runs crossing home plate courtesy of a Gil McDougald home run. The Braves rallied for a run against Ryne Duren in the bottom of the 10th and had runners on the corners with two outs. Stengel called on Turley just two days after his Game 5 win. Pinch-hitter Frank Torre hit the ball on the nose, but McDougald snared it at second base to preserve the win.

Game 7 was played the next day and the Yankees and Braves were again knotted 2-2. Starter Don Larsen, who two years earlier threw the only perfect game in World Series history, lasted just 2.1 innings. Stengel sent for #19 once again. Turley would pitch 6.2 innings - 16 innings total over three days - and emerge the winner when Moose Skowron blasted a 3-run home run to highlight a four run 8th inning.

Turley, the obvious choice for series MVP, allowed a single run on two hits to finish with two wins and a save in the final three games of the series.

Dave Righetti was part of one of the best deals the Yankees ever made in the George Steinbrenner ERA. He was acquired as part of a nine player swap with the Texas Rangers after the 1978 season with Sparky Lyle (Graig Nettles: "He went from Cy Young to Sayonara") the best known player of the five that left the Bronx.

"Rags" burst on to the scene in the strike shortened 1981 season when he captured the AL Rookie of the Year award. He finished 8-4 in 15 starts with a 2.05 ERA, 7.6 K/9 IP and one home run allowed in 105.1 innings pitched.

His success continued in the post season when he earned two wins (13 K's in 9 IP) in the special strike necessitated division series with the Milwaukee Brewers and earned another victory in the ALCS against Oakland. His good luck streak ran out in the World Series when the Dodgers rallied from a 2-0 deficit in games to win four straight to take the title. Righetti lasted just two innings in Game 3, but didn't figure in the decision.

Two years later, snubbed in the All-Star pitcher selection process, Righetti took the mound against the Boston Red Sox in the final game before the break. It was Sunday, July 4, a blistering hot day of not only the nation's birthday, but George Steinbrenner's as well.

Righetti made baseball history that day when he became the first Yankee since Larsen to throw a no-hitter. He struck out Wade Boggs three times, including the final out of the game. Boggs struck out only 44 times all year. He got a big defensive play from right fielder Steve Kemp who leapt with outstretched glove over the right field wall in foul territory to snag Dwight Evans' fly ball.

So much would change from that day when Righetti collapsed in his catcher Butch Wyengar's arms after the final out. Despite a 14-8 record with a 3.44 ERA, the Yankees decided that Righetti's future was as the team's closer, not a starter. Righetti wasn't happy, the fans weren't happy and to this day you have to wonder what kind of career Righetti could have had, had he remained a starter.

That being said, Righetti adapted well to the closer role. After he saved 60 games combined in 1984-1985, Righetti broke the Major League record with 46 saves. He finished his Yankees career with 224 saves, second only to Mariano Rivera in franchise history.

After 10-plus seasons in the bigs with the Yankees, the lefty signed a free agent contract with San Francisco Giants (where he's been pitching coach since 2000) prior to the 1991 season. He saved 24 games his first year on the west coast, but things started to spiral downward from there. He did get to start four games in 1992 and another nine in his final season (1995) with the Chicago White Sox.  His first victory back in the American League came at the expense of the Yankees in his first AL start since 1983.

Let's hope this all means that every 25-30 years the #19 is very good for a Yankees' pitcher. The Yankees and Tanaka are counting on it.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Sterling's Spring Training Starts Now

Pitchers and catchers don't report until February 14, but I can imagine that at this very moment John Sterling is in his home, sitting in front of the fireplace in a navy blue pinstripe suit, Chivas Regal in one hand, DVR remote in the other. He faces his 50" flat screen TV and watches highlights of Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann, Brian Roberts, Carlos Beltran, abd Kelly Johnson hitting home runs. Occassionally a tear rolls down his cheek as he realizes he'll no longer say, "Robbie Cano, don'tcha know!".

He jumps around, setting his sights on one particular image and brainstorms new home run calls. "What words rhyme with the names? Are there any old Broadway references/ Is it something I can sing? Have I used it before? I got caught last year doing that. I can't let it happen again."

Just then Jacoby Ellsbury, clad in a Boston Red Sox uniform, hits a pitch into the Fenway Park bullpen.

"It is high, it is far, it is gone..Ohhh Ellsbury Fields Forever!" Hmmm..maybe. He pauses the recording, puts down the remote and scribbles the possible call on a pad of paper.  Remote back in hand, he skips back to the beginning and watches Ellsbury's home run again.

"Jaco-by hit that to, no maybe not. Jaco-by using the force like Obi-Wan-Kenobi. Instant classic!!!"

Brian McCann, wearing his long time Atlanta Braves uniform, steps to the plate on the plasma.

"Oh, Brian..making the pitcher cryin'.....Oh, Brian lost that baseball like we lost a Mayan...hmmm, too obscure?"

"McCann just gained a fan! That would have to be after another call. Wait! Guys and Dolls."
"Can do Can do, McCann says his bat can do" He pauses the television and quickly grabs his cellphone to call Suzyn Waldman. He begins to sing his modified Broadway tune. Soon he and Suzyn are singing together, then break into "Luck Be a Lady" and "Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat".

Sterling hangs up the phone. A satisfied look on his face, with a "McCann Can Dance still in his bag of tricks, he refills his glass and pops on video of Roberts. The light bulb immediately goes off - Mr. Roberts, Hank Fonda...a Broadway and movie classic, but not a musical. Damn it, so close. "Sterling loses, Sterling loses."

Undeterred, the modern voice of the Yankees watches Carlos Beltran appear on screen. "That's it, I'll go back to Roberts. Too many Brians. "Burn Baby, no, no..sorry Bernie.  Carlos puts the belt in Beltran...hmmm, maybe. It is high, it is far, it is gone! Carlos "Danger" Beltran. No, no that could cause more problems. And Beltran ra-an, he ran so far away-ay-ay, he touched home plate today. Ah, those Flock of Seagulls. What an '80s band. Suzyn will never get that one though. This is tough. I have to think about it more."

On to Johnson. "When he goes back to back, I can use back to back and a belly to Kelly! Yes, it's gold! But what about when he hits one alone. Kelly, he hit that one to Carnaegie Deli. Okay, I can save that for tape measure shots, but what's the sure thing? KJ made the ball yell May Day. That's it. Pure genius! The right blend of cornball and obscurity.  I've got to pack up and get down to Tampa early to try these out."

No matter who plays on the Yankees this year, you can bet that John Sterling will be well prepared with a pocket full of home run calls. Let's just hope he has plenty of them to call for the Bronx Bombers.