What Day This Is…

I can say there aren’t any words to describe what I’m feeling right now, but that’s a lie. The truth is that it’s all a jumble of words, images, and heartbreak that sit in my mind gestating right now. It’s all a mess in here, but let me see if I can try to mimic some semblance of coherent thought on the matter.

Mariano Rivera hurt himself last night pretty bad. You could almost go on to say epic bad. Doing what he loves to do before every game, he was in the outfield shagging fly balls during batting practice in Kansas City, when he went back for a ball, jumped, and landed awkwardly, twisting his right knee.

There are some feared words when you start talking about sports injuries. Ruptured Achilles. Tommy John surgery. Rotator cuff. Concussion symptoms.

Torn ACL.

Mariano Rivera tore up his knee and is most likely done for the year. What is so much more horrible about this is that he may be done for his career. He’s already 42 years old at this point, matching the number on his back that will never be worn by anyone ever again in a baseball uniform.

Short of someone dying, or human suffering, this is just about the worst feeling right now. Is that going too far? You’re not in my brain, so you can’t possibly understand the weight on my mind and heart. At the end of the day, you’re right in thinking, ‘Hey no one died. It’s just sports. There are real tragedies in the world.’ All very true, but we all have different levels of emotional investment in so many disparate things. You likely hold something very dear to you that would just about crush you if you lost it. Well, you’re almost at my level if you just pictured yourself without it.

Mariano Rivera is my favorite Yankee of all-time. And if you know me, you might only begin to understand what that means. I don’t need to go into all the stats and everything. I don’t need to go into comparing his numbers with his peers, contemporaries, and past closers. There is no need for any of that. Just knowing the name is enough. Hell, just saying it. His name is uttered in the same breath as Babe Ruth, Michael Jordan, and Wayne Gretzky. The man isn’t just a future Hall of Famer, he is a living and breathing sports LEGEND. If you saw him pitch live you can be proud in knowing what those who saw Babe Ruth smack home runs felt like. Or those who saw Jordan hit game winning shots. Or Gretzky breaking records. It’s not hyperbole to say Mariano Rivera is a baseball icon.

This is a guy who opposing teams feared. They knew he lurked, waiting at the end of the bullpen to come in and finish the game. If you trailed against the Yankees, you knew you were playing an eight inning game. If you were in the stands at Yankee Stadium, you got up out of your seat and cheered, and roared, and howled, and sang, and danced, and chanted “Ma-ri-ano!” as he came into the game in the ninth inning to ‘Enter Sandman’ blaring over the loudspeakers. It is simply the greatest entrance in sports, bar none. To quote one Jules Winnfield from ‘Pulp Fiction’, “And if you heard it, that meant your ass!” On the road, the home town fans would sit in their seats, hoping against hope. Usually that hope was denied.

Not to say he was perfect. No one is. And this is why they play the game. But you can’t be closer to perfect than Mariano Rivera. A cut fastball that broke as many bats as it did hearts.

I saw him on the post game show, standing by his locker, talking about the injury and what it all means. He was so despondent, a characterization you’d never use to describe him otherwise. I had felt a pit in my stomach since first hearing the news. First it was a vague description of the injury on the radio, without mention of the name since I had tuned in late. I only heard ‘shagging balls during batting practice’ and that was my first clue. I pounded the steering wheel of my car in frustration as I drove. Then the confirmation in an email alert. Then the video, along with Alex Rodriguez’s reaction across the field. Then, after the game. And here he was, the legend himself, talking about how he had let the team down. And he welled up and stopped to compose himself. Tears fell from my eyes, rolled down my cheeks. Here we are, talking about this great misfortune for Mariano Rivera, and he says the worst part is letting his team down. This legend is so human…

I can only hope and pray it doesn’t end like this for him. He had hinted that this may be his last season. But this isn’t the ending befitting the greatest closer in baseball history. It’s not befitting one of the greatest pitchers, one of the greatest players to ever put on a uniform. It just doesn’t feel right. He has to come back and feel the love and adoration of the New York Yankee fans once more, on the mound, in a game that matters. In a game where we depend on him for the positive outcome. We need him to be Mariano Rivera, that legend, once more.

If not that will shatter my heart, like a million splinters of useless lumber from a cut fastball to the handle of a bat.

So I’m Finally On The Plus Side…

Yankees 5 – Brewers 2

(Personal Yankee record this year 3-2)

So I’m 3-2 going to Yankee games this year. Finally off that .500 snide… Next stop will be at CitiField this Sunday for the Subway Series finale!

And, it’s a bit late and I’m kind of lazy right now…. So I’m just going to post my comment from Jane Heller’s awesome "Confessions of a She-Fan" Yankee Blog.

Wow, just getting back from the game now! (after hanging out a little at the after party with my cousins!) What a great game! So much to talk about!

Granderson’s double play! Wow! We’ve seen him make that overhead catch on the run so many times, I just knew he was going to make that play. I sat mid-way between first base and the foul pole on the second tier, so I had a great look at it. What I didn’t notice was that the runner had run past second base. The entire stadium was screaming, “FIRST!!!” And then joy!

And then Cano’s triple! We all know of Nyjer Morgan’s antics last year, acting like some idiot, thinking he was some kind of thug, looking to start a brawl or something… What a complete ass. My cousins and I were already talking about him earlier in the game, and when he hit that wall, woo!, the expletives flew in the air! “Good for you, you bleeping so-and-so!” and the such. And then mimicking his body flailing from hitting the wall, lol! I’m pretty sure the only hit to that point was Gardner’s double, so this was a great opportunity to tie up the game, with the lead-off triple. My cousin started making fun of Morgan looked down at his hat and seemingly blamed it for the collision. I chimed in, “I couldn’t see the wall because of you, you stupid hat!!” (the preceding quote has been modified for family audiences) Hilarity ensued!

And then Martin’s home run. My cousin hadn’t really seen much of Martin as a Yankee, so he was suspicious of how good he really was seeing his numbers. I told him, “No, he started really great but has been slumping lately.” And then he hit that home run to give us the lead. On the ‘small’ screen they played the animation of Martin as a Canadian Mountie, which goes up whenever he gets a hit. “Oh, he’s Canadian?” my cousin asked. “I love Canada!” is what I think he said. I couldn’t really hear because I was yelling, “Russell has muscle!!” at the top of my lungs.

And then Posada’s home run. It was such a no doubter from my position. I easily saw the ball bounce off the top of the concrete wall and bounce back in. The ball came back in and Posada was tagged, but I had no doubt this call would be overturned. The umps just had to get together and decide to actually take a look at it! I hoped they wouldn’t be too proud and say no review was necessary. I was screaming for them to take a look at it, while doing the home run signal. The umpires obviously heard me, so they went inside to take a look. So there I was, sitting for a review! A baseball first for me! And they came back out with the signal. I had told my cousins that if they called this an out, I was going to fling chairs around and rip flesh! But they made the correct call, and that’s all we ask for… Funny thing to see Posada round the bases twice, with the home run music and graphics going! After being tagged and Girardi asking the ump a question, Posada decided to round the bases anyway. So without an official call, someone deep down in the bowels of Yankee Stadium decided to put the whole home run show on. And when the umps came back out, Posada was already waiting at first, ready for a second trip! I screamed, “We should count this as two runs for making us wait!!”

My one cousin isn’t an AJ fan, which is funny because this is at least the third AJ start he’s witnessed! Not by choice, mind you. But he didn’t have much to say today after his great outing. He’s got a video game general manager mindset, which is another way of saying it’s totally unrealistic. His big idea is to (*warning!* take a deep breath! and yes, he is a yankee fan!) trade Jeter, along with Joba and AJ to the Mets for Reyes, Johan, and K-Rod. Like I said, unrealistic. Too many video game trades for him… There are other ‘plans’ he has if ever becomes the Yankees’ GM, but I think the previous one is already too much for anyone here to bear!

And David Robertson was great again. I reminded the same cousin from above that we witnessed his major league debut against the Mets in 2008. The guy’s come a long way. He’s one of those guys like Brett Gardner, or even Ivan Nova this year, that any team would love to have. These are the guys who aren’t superstars, but are extremely valuable to the team. Bonafide, legit baseball players who are more often than not, great. I really hope he gets an All-Star nod.

And then Mariano! What smooooth sailing. No worries in the top of the ninth. Sit ‘em down, Mo!

So it’s only now that I hear that got Mitre back. And how you thought we were finally rid of him, Jane! He’ll help the bullpen as the long man. Which seems odd to make that move, seeing how we’re getting Colon and Hughes back soon. But what do I know? I’m not the Yankees GM like my cuz…

So, just another note Jane. The Brewers have had trouble with the AL East so far this year, not just with the Yanks. They lost two of three against the Red Sox. Then they lost two of three against the Rays. And after a Twins sweep, they’ve lost the first two against the Yankees. This just goes to prove what a tough division the AL East is. Milwaukee is a division leader, with great pitching and great hitting. But they just can’t hack it against this division’s best. Maybe it’s more an indictment against the National League as a whole.

So, yeah. Yawn…. Sleep now. Don’t hate me. Please…

So, Why Didn’t I Get the MLB Fan Cave Job Again…?

The MLB Fan Cave

So I’m walking around the city last night, and I come across the MLB Fan Cave. I didn’t even realize the address, but I saw these big windows, people peering in, and this one dude just chillin’ on a couch! Watching baseball! What?!

So it made me think back to the two essays I wrote for the somewhat mysterious MLB ‘dream job’ application. You had to respond to two of three questions. The first one I answered was ‘Why I love baseball’. The second was ‘What I felt would be the biggest baseball story of the season’. My computer sort of died after writing both of them and only the first essay survived. Maybe it’s a good thing because the second essay was about how Boston and Philadelphia would be the biggest stories with their revamped offense and pitching, respectively. Ick…!

But the first one made it back from the dead :

I’ve loved baseball before I even knew what the word ‘love’ meant. Growing up in a Dominican household in the Bronx destined me forever to not only love baseball, but be a Yankee fan. My father would watch every possible Yankee game on TV, and there I’d be as a kid, right by his side. I learned the basics of the game from him, telling me how many outs in an inning, telling me about double plays and home runs, what a pinch hitter was. I learned names like Mattingly, Winfield, Randolph, Guidry, and Martin. And then the mythical names of Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Berra, and Mantle. Phil Rizzuto’s, “Holy Cow!” is etched in my mind forever. I learned that the Boston Red Sox were the bad guys and I saw how New York was more of a Mets town in the 80’s. But my father told me of the great Yankee dynasties, and how great it was to celebrate as champions. That gave me faith.

As I grew up I started to take the game on by myself. My father had an unfortunate accident when I was ten and could no longer be my guide to baseball. There was a time where the only link I had to baseball was my Yankee cap. I didn’t want to be reminded of those times I had lost with my father. Funny enough, I still knew who ended up winning the World Series those years. But as I started high school and Spring Training ’94 came around, there was this incredible buzz throughout the school. There was debate on the best possible Yankee lineup. Who’s hitting leadoff? Where will Mattingly hit? There was that familiar name I left behind. And then the new names of Buck Showalter, Bernie Williams, Danny Tartabull, and… Wade Boggs? The Red Sox’ third baseman?! I was all in all over again. There was that passion for the game I remembered, now amongst new friends.

Although the strike that year seemed to turn many away from the game of baseball, it only made me hungrier for more. The Yankees having the best record in the American League was foreign to me. And a year without a World Series was stranger still. My rediscovered love led me to witness the first Yankee playoff appearance I could ever remember. And while they came up short against the Mariners the first round, it led to even better things for all Yankee fans. 1996 brought along a skinny shortstop named Jeter who would become the Rookie of the Year, as well as bringing a World Series Championship back to the Bronx for the first time in 18 years. It was the first time I ever saw my team as champions. I shared smiles with my father, crippled and debilitated with head injuries suffered. This is what he had been talking about so long ago. Enjoying the ride and watching your team win it all. How could I not love this game?

So why didn’t I get this job again?!

Well… After seeing that this guy has to watch every single MLB game, and never actually go to a game, maybe I’m better off. How could I pass up Opening Day at Yankee Stadium? Or Yankees/Mets at Citifield coming up next week? Or any other game I’ve been to and will go to this season?

No… Good thing then, huh?

And thank God that, of the two, the essay I wrote from the heart wasn’t lost in a digital wasteland forever…

Tex’s Pie…!

Yankees 5 – Blue Jays 4

The Yankees come off a big come from behind win tonight, on the strength of timely hits by Jorge Posada’s big pinch hit double, Granderson’s single and steal, and then Teixeira’s walk off single.

First off, I didn’t get to see much of the game, only from the seventh inning on. That was due to the fact that both pitchers were in control of the game. It was 1-1 in the fourth when Toronto decided to string a few easy knocks together and got another three runs. This included an error off a sac bunt by McDonald.

So Ricky Romero and CC Sabathia were going back and forth until he was taken out in the bottom of the eighth. Here the Yankees go to work! Granderson doubles and gets to third on an out. Then A-Rod strikes out… Arg. But then Cano doubles to right, driving in Grandy from third! And then Russell Martin singles through the pitcher’s legs as Cano scores from second! And Swisher pops out. Arg…

And then we see CC is still out there in the ninth! He was in there hoping for a complete game, and possibly a win. The last complete game a Yankees’ pitcher threw was over two years ago, the longest streak in the majors. But the ninth inning was nothing for CC and the Jays were down 1-2-3. It was something to see how dominant CC was, yet was down 4-1 as late as the eighth. I later learned on the post game shows that the bases were loaded with Jose Bautista at bat. Eep! But he managed to get out of that jam. He struck through it all and came out with a win.

Now, the bottom of the ninth started off with a grounder to first by Gardner. It was important for him to get on because he could easily steal. And that would mean that the next guy up, Nuñez, could bunt him over. So when that didn’t happen, Girardi sent Jorge Posada up to pinch hit, hoping for a home run maybe. The struggles for Posada this year have been well documented, so I won’t go into all that. But he has been looking a lot better as of late, and he stroked a double to Bautista. Bautista bobbled the ball out there and JoPo scrambled to second. Posada definitely isn’t the greatest baserunner, and will every now and then make an oddball decision on the basepaths and be called out. So of course his aggressive baserunning just happens to pay off this time! It didn’t just a few days ago, when a well stroked double off the left-center field wall ended up being an out at second.

So Dickerson now pinch runs for Posada at second. Earlier in the radio and TV broadcasts, we were given this fabulous stat: the Yankees were 1-18 on the season when losing entering the eighth inning. So things are looking great. With Jeter at bat, the whole stadium wanted to see the Captain hit a home run and get some pie! Of course a hit would be just as nice… But he grounds to shortstop as Dickerson was making a run at third. So now two outs, man on second. Granderson, who doubled the previous inning, singles to right and Dickerson scores easily! Tie game!

Now, with Teixeira at the plate, Granderson steals second to get into scoring position. Had he not slid into second, he might have pulled a Johnny Damon and stolen third as well! The shift was on against Tex, but Granderson stayed on second once he saw Yunel Escobar sprint to cover third! Mark Teixeira slaps a pitch to his right and I knew something good was about to happen! Juan Rivera at first (at first?!) dives and the ball dribbles off his glove just enough to give Granderson enough time to slide home and score the winning run!

The Yankees haven’t had too much luck in scoring runs the last few weeks. There are the few games where they’ve blown up against a pitcher, but the consistent offense hasn’t really been there lately. And there definitely hasn’t been much in the way of comebacks. This was a great win tonight, when things looked hopeless. When it looked like CC would once again take the tough luck loss. This is the kind of game that can go a long way in establishing some sort of confidence within the offense. That they’re never out of the game, that they can score at will, in any inning. This was key in 2009 when the Yankees had 17 total walk off wins. Tonight was only the second of the year, but it couldn’t have come at a better time.

Oh God! What A Crazy Game…!

Yankees 4 – Orioles 1

Wow! One of the craziest games I’ve ever seen! And I’ve seen lots of baseball games. So crazy I finally had to post again!
Yankees win in 15 innings against the Orioles in Baltimore. 15 innings, but it felt like two different games the way this one was going. First off, Bartolo Colon had his best game yet, allowing only three hits and pitching a shutout. The guy was lights out, going with mainly his fastball and sprinkling the odd breaking ball here and there. Eight innings and seven strikeouts later, he looked prime for the ninth. He only had 87 pitches at that point. Mariano Rivera was warming up to get the save at what was at the time a 1-0 lead.

So I’m just about to yell at Girardi how he should leave Bart in the game, until at least someone gets on. Not like Joe would have heard me all the way in Baltimore… Now I’m the biggest Mariano Rivera fan, but I just felt like Bart was in control of the game. And what happens? Mariano gives up the lead with a one out pop fly by Big Bad Vlad in the bottom of the ninth.

So the game I thought would end before 9:30 pm decides to go on into extra innings.

Nice………..

Things aren’t looking good.

And then things really get crazy.

The top of the tenth starts with a Nuñez strikeout. Martin singles, Jeter fouls out, and then Granderson strikes out. Arg. The bottom of the tenth sees Wieters single, Hardy grounds out, Reynolds flies out, and Andino grounds out. So, standard fare.

And then a scary eleventh. Tex, A-Rod, and Cano make outs 1-2-3. So now Baltimore sends up Pie who quickly singles against Ayala. Then Adam Jones bunts him over to first. One out, man on second. Not looking good… Intentional walk to Markakis. Vladimir smacks the ball to A-Rod who saves the game with a dive, but then he almost gives it away by throwing wide to Tex at first! Teixeira then saves the game himself by scooping the errant throw from the dirt! What the hell is going on?!

Bases loaded, one out. In comes Boone Logan. Oh, boy… I felt a loss coming. But he manages to strike out Luke Scott, and then gets Wieters to fly out to right. Phew!

Yankees again at bat in the twelfth. Chris Dickerson singles and Gardner bunts him to second. Then Nuñez grounds to third. Arg! Martin singles, and now it’s first and third with two outs. Martin steals with Jeter up! Base hit will score two… But Jeter grounds out. Ack!

And if things weren’t crazy enough, in come Hector Noesi for the Yankees in his Major League debut! Well, the game is probably going to be over now, right? Nothing against the kid, but he is a rookie, and it is the first time he’s ever pitched against Major League hitters. So, this should be over quick…

So what does the kid do? He strikes out the first ever batter he faces! Hey, save that ball! And then he strikes out the second batter! Ok…! And he walks Andino… Hmmm. And Pie singles. And then takes second on Defensive Indifference. And Adam Jones walks. Ok, here we go. The end is nigh… Nick Markakis is up at bat. So should we expect a home run? A simple base hit for the win? Or how about a slick pick off a chopped ball in front of Noesi and a toss to first? I’ll take that last one! Inning over!

Yankees up to bat again in the 13th, yes 13th inning. Can we end this game yet? Curtis Granderson wants to. So he singles. Tex likes what he just saw, so he singles as well. First and second with A-Rod at bat. Now we should be able to make something happen. But he strikes out on a low pitch. Damn it, just swing! Pop it up and advance Granderson at least! Well, maybe Robbie can do som- No, no they walk him, forcing the bases loaded to pitch against Dickerson. This is supposed to be Swisher’s spot in the lineup, but he was taken out 17 hours ago for defensive purposes. Good kid, should be decent, he’s been making solid contact, but he strikes out here. And then Gardner can’t get a hit and grounds out. Bases loaded opportunity wasted. If they couldn’t score there they’re just destined to lose, right?

So the O’s are up again. Vlad singles to lead off. Luke Scott flies out, and Wieters grounds out. Hardy is walked intentionally to get to Reynolds. Noesi gets a big strikeout, his third of his career.

Now, the top of the fourteenth… Nuñez singles and then steals second. Woo-hoo! We just need a bunt now! Russell Martin pops out to first trying to move the runner over instead… Arg. And then Jeter grounds out. And then Granderson grounds out. They don’t want to win the game. Seriously.

Noesi comes out for his third inning. I expect this to be the inning where things blow up. He’s already gone once through the lineup and he’s just a kid. Maybe he’s tiring by now and will make a mistake, being overconfident at how he’s gotten out of these jams so far… But he just decides to take out the O’s 1-2-3 like he’s used to pitching on the road. In extra innings. As a rookie. In his Major League debut. On a Yankees team. Ehh, this ain’t nothin’!

Whew! Am I allowed to breathe maybe?

The top of the fifteenth now. And Tex singles. And A-Rod singles. Can we stop with all the damn singles?! Can we get some extra base hits and drive in some of these guys already? Come on!! Lefty Mike Gonzalez comes in to face Robinson Cano. And he drills the first pitch to deep right center. Jones bobbles the ball, allowing two runs to score as Robbie makes it in to third! Thank you, God! The score is now 3-1 Yankees and I let out a sigh of relief. Finally. Now we just have to guard against a late rally or some freak walk off home run…

Meanwhile Dickerson’s helmet guarded him against a pitch that came up and in on him. The ball smacked him just above his eye and went down to the ground. The pitcher is immediately thrown out of the game, the Orioles last pitcher mind you. So now they have to get tomorrow’s starter up and warming to get into this game. At the same time, Dickerson has to come out of the game, but Girardi has already used everyone but Posada at this point. Who’s gonna run for him? Cervelli started and he’s out. Nuñez started at Shortstop. Jeter was DH. The bullpen is all used up, except for Joba and Robertson who you don’t want to waste in case you do have to use them. You can’t use your emergency back up catcher, Posada, so late in the game. Who’s at first? Hey, let’s get AJ in there and hope he doesn’t tear up his foot running around… It was pretty cool to see him out there, but he was under strict orders to only go station to station, and no sliding. So Gardner comes up to bat and pops it up to right field for the first out. Cano comes in from third to score. Nuñez and Martin each make an out and the Yankees leave the inning up 4-1. Whew!

Jeter comes in as Shortstop and Nuñez takes over for Dickerson in right. So the DH is gone and the pitcher will come to bat if it comes to that. Noesi is still on the mound trying to close this out and record his first Major League win. Markakis singles and the next man walks. Why would I think this game would be this easy?

Well… Luke Scott lines out to Gardner out a ball hit pretty well. Oof! That was too close. Wieters slaps the ball past the Tex at first! But it hits Snyder, the runner, and he’s called out. Now what have we seen so far from this game? Bases loaded and scoring opportunities by both teams in extra innings, a Major League debut, a Mariano blown save, an almost complete game, a batter knocked out of the game (literally), a pitcher ejected, an error in the outfield, a starting pitcher pinch running, the DH coming in to play in the field, an infielder making the move to the outfield, and a runner getting hit by a batted ball to make an out. So now what?! Of course, the man out of position gets a ball hit to him, and Nuñez makes the final out of the game in right field, finally sending everyone home.

And Noesi will never forget his debut.

Wow….

So, At Last…

So Opening Day, and Opening Week has finally come and gone. Now we enter our second weekend in fact. And I’m late with the first entry of the season. But with good reason!!

There’s something special about Opening Day. There’s a grand feeling that somehow doesn’t seem to be captured by the other major sports in this country. Football is raucous every game. Basketball’s opening night usually depends on the strong teams to create a buzz. Hockey’s feels like finally getting that ‘fix’ again of watching players fly up and down the ice. But baseball really feels different. It feels like tradition. It feels like hope. It feels like the beginning of Summer. It feels like a national holiday, and your boys are back! The best part about it is, you really don’t know what you’re gonna get… But you go out there with a winning attitude!

Even the lowliest of teams feel like they have a chance. A new season with renewed commitment. Maybe there’s a few gems amongst those rookie pitchers. Maybe a veteran’s bat will relive past glory. Maybe a team has a scrappy identity and never give up. Maybe, even though your team may lose, and not make the playoffs, they’ll make you proud to be a fan. Or, maybe they can validate your devoted fandom and give you the World Series Championship you thought you’d never see!

So March 31st comes along and I have the best seats I’ve ever had at the new Yankee Stadium. Third base side, field level. And I’m overcome by the anticipation, the excitement, the…. cold!!! Ack! Baseball in March?! It was the first time March baseball was ever played in the Bronx. The old Yankee Stadium was scheduled to have its last Opening Day on March 31st in 2008, but she said, “I never hosted a game this early in my long life, and I’m not starting now…” And rain took the game from us that day. She never saw March baseball. And after this past Opening Day, I think I know why!

The November like chills didn’t put a damper on my day though. I knew to expect some chills, this being my fifth Opening Day in a row. So with a my hoody under my Berra jersey, and a double of Jameson down the hatch, I was ready for 2011 to officially start!

The usual ceremonies commence. The rosters. The fighter jets overhead. The oversized flag. The National Anthem. The fighter jets making another pass… Yankees take the field! The warmups!! The growing buzz!!! The first pitch!!!! STRIKE!!!!! And I don’t want to sit down yet… Roll Call!!!

CC strikes out Austin Jackson, then Will Rhymes flies out to Granderson on a dive, and finally a line out to Grandy again.

First Yankee baserunner is Teixeira. First opportunity wasted is Cano striking out with two men out, two outs. First hit of the year at the Stadium belongs to Miguel “Get me a drink” Cabrera. First run of the year at the Stadium is once again, Miguel “Get me a drink” Cabrera, who finally found that drink and raced home to get it.

First Yankee hit of the year is… Russell Martin? Ok! First stolen base of the year is… Russell Martin? Stealing third?! Ok!! First Yankee run of the year… Russell Martin. ON THE FIRST HOME RUN OF THE YEAR BY MARK TEIXEIRA! A three run blast deep into the second deck in right field!

And the Tigers come back and tie. That’s fine, because in the seventh inning Grandy launched a solo shot in the right field deck in an attempt to find that ball his buddy. (too bad i was in the bathroom and didn’t see it live…) Yankees take the lead, the JoSoMo show comes on, game over! Theeeeee Yankeeeeees Win!!! 6-3.

Three days later I was back again and witnessed a home run barrage as there were a combined seven home runs in the game! Cabrera hit two and Boesch one, meanwhile Posada hit two, and Tex and Cano each added one. Unfortunately it wasn’t enough for the home team, as they lost 10-7. Ack!

And believe it or not, I was back the next day against the Twins! By this time I was all Yankee’d out and the thought of writing in this blog was the furthest thing in my mind… But I got to see another strong performance from the Yanks. Ivan “Super” Nova came out and bent, but didn’t break. He was gritty as he held the Twins to three runs. Two scored in the fourth, one in the fifth, and he shut them down impressively in the sixth. Keeping the damage to a minimum deep in his outing had been his weakness last year, but hopefully Nova has found something to not give in.

But other than that, I captured Posada’s home run on camera, and the JoSoMo show once again closed out the game! 4-3.

What a crazy weekend of baseball. I wish there were three wins and not two, but hey, you can’t win ‘em all… We can damn sure try though!

Hopefully next year will bring a grander celebration for Opening Day. The kind where Championship rings are handed out and a new banner is raised for #28. It won’t be easy, and they’ll be doubters for sure. But the Yankee faithful believes in our team. We believe until the very end. There’s a feeling that starts on Opening Day for us. And that feeling of tradition, that feeling of hope, that winning attitude permeates our entire season, it doesn’t just last one day for us. This is what being a Yankee fan is all about. We believe we are the champions at the beginning of the season. The rest is proof.

Let’s go get it…

The Case for Robinson Cano…

So it was May of 20

05 and Tony Womack was a woeful disappointment already. The
Yankees had just signed him in the offseason to make up for the patchwork that
second base had become. In February of 2004 the Yankees traded an unbelievable
offensive second basemen in Alfonso Soriano for Alex Rodriguez. Although
Soriano wasn’t the greatest of defenders, he didn’t throw the ball into the
stands as Knoblauch had the propensity to do late in his career. So Alfonso
Soriano was the man at second, even though Enrique Wilson
kept looking more and more like he was ready for a full time job.


I didn’t like trading away Soriano, since he had become a favorite player of
mine, and fan favorite as well. He had great numbers and seemed pretty clutch.
His home run in the eighth inning of Game Seven in the 2001 World Series gave
the Yankees a 3-2 lead and a seemingly unbelievable comeback in the series to
win their fourth straight championship. It was not meant to be, as we all know
what happened in the bottom of the ninth.

But if you’re going to trade away an Alfonso Soriano, you can’t really be too
mad in getting A-Rod in return. It gave the Yankees a legitimate power threat
at third that they didn’t have for a while. And it seemed natural that Enrique
would fill in at second base just fine. Well, it didn’t turn out that well at
all. Miguel Cairo ended up playing most of the year at second, and while he
defense was very decent, the offensive numbers just weren’t that great. The
Yankees wanted something more. Tony Womack looked like an ideal fit, until he
began the worst season of his career in 2005.

So up comes this kid name Robinson Cano. Ca-what? CAY-no? Cah-no? I had never
seen him play in the minors, only heard the name. I had been watching as many
Yankee games as possible starting in 2002, when I came back up to NY after four
years in FL. Now I could finally watch my team everyday! So I kept hearing
about this kid. Funny enough, the reason I kept hearing about him was that he
was always included in trades. He almost went to Texas for A-Rod. He almost
went to KC for Beltran. He almost went to Arizona for Randy Johnson. But they
kept rejecting him. And all I kept hearing was how great the kid could hit. I
just didn’t know how to say his name, since everyone was butchering it.

So up he comes to get a look. The Yankees had hoped he would be some sort of
improvement over Womack who eventually became a backup infielder/outfielder.
Along with Wang, who also came earlier in the week, and Aaron Small, and a few
other younger players named collectively ‘The Baby Bombers’, the Yankees would
eventually overcome their disappointing first half of the season and come all
the way back to win the division on the penultimate day of the season, in
Boston no less!

Cano never looked back after coming up. He hit .297 that year, impressing many
with his swing. He made a real case for Rookie of the Year, but lost out to
Huston Street. He had 14 home runs, but walked only 16 times. It was hit or
miss basically for Cano that year. And so the talk began about how impatient he
was.

He hit .342 his second year, and finished third in batting average. This year
really put him on the scene, as there was no sophomore slump. People began to
notice his road batting average and his ability to hit to all fields. He missed
40 games due to injury, but still posted better numbers all around than his
rookie year. He even got selected to the All Star Game.

The next year was truly the sophomore slump. He was hitting poorly early on,
and the team wasn’t doing much either. The team looked like they wanted to
repeat 2005 until they started to turn it on a bit. This in part was due to
Robinson Cano and his buddy Melky Cabrera forcing each other to step up their
game. Robinson Cano posted career highs in all offensive categories, just
missing out on 200 hits and ending with a .306 average. The Yankees came all
the way back and ended up with the Wild Card.

By 2008, there were calls to trade Cano, even though he was a staple of the
Yankees lineup. He started off poorly once again. As did Melky after beginning
the season with an impressive 6 home runs in the first month. The calls to
trade him were from the outside though. Fans and media were impatient and
wanted someone more ‘consistent’. Or maybe get a pitcher out of the deal.
Thankfully cooler heads prevailed. Cano ended up having probably his worst year
statistically. A .271 average and other numbers comparable to his rookie year,
or worse. The Yankees themselves were inconsistent and wouldn’t make the
playoffs for the first time since 1993.

2009 saw a new approach from Cano, and a renewed dedication to the game. He
came back strong, posting a .320 average and finally reached the 200 hit
plateau. He had career highs in runs scored, doubles, hits, and home runs. The
one negative for the year was an issue driving in runners in scoring position.
His defense finally stood out to many and was considered a favorite for a Gold
Glove. In the end, he helped the Yankees win the World Series that year and cemented
his status as an elite second baseman with potential for more.

It sure does seem more has come in 2010. Robinson Cano is one of the favorites
for the 2010 AL MVP. He jumped out with a red-hot April, hitting over .400 for
the month and winning AL Player of the Month honors. With the loss of Hideki
Matsui, there was talk Cano wouldn’t be able to handle the pressure of hitting
behind A-Rod. The fear was he wouldn’t be able to drive runs in and wouldn’t
protect Alex in the lineup. His April silenced all the critics immediately.

No one assumed Cano would keep the torrid hitting up all through the season. He
went into a funk a few days before the end of April and saw his average drop
precipitously. After about three weeks, he found his stroke once more and lead
all of baseball with an average in the high .370’s. Shortly before the All Star
Game, he came back down to Earth and ended the first half with a .336 average.

He made his second All Star Game, playing for the first time. He came through
with big hits almost every time he was needed. He carried the the time while
others were slumping. Jeter ended up with one of his worst years statistically.
A-Rod ended with an un-A-Rod like .270 average. Teixeira had a .256 average.
These guys are supposed to be the big stars on the team, yet Cano bested them
all. While hit batting average seemed to go down from the beginning of the
year, there’s no doubt his production stayed consistent throughout. 2010 was
without a doubt a career year. He hit a career high 29 home runs. He had a
career high 57 walks. He had a career high 109 rbi’s, cracking the 100 rbi
barrier for the first time. He also ended with another 200 hit season. Going
into the final weekend, Cano had 193 hits. All he did was muster up six hits on
one Saturday in a doubleheader, and came through with an rbi single in the
eighth inning of the final game to get that 200th hit. Very clutch.

All told, his numbers are barely eclipsed by anyone else. There is a case for
Miguel Cabrera, Josh Hamilton, Paul Konerko, and even Jose Bautista. The voters
will most likely write off Bautista and Konerko’s chances since their teams
didn’t make the playoffs. They had great years, but their teams didn’t do
enough.

The other two guys had unbelievable seasons. Miguel Cabrera was everything for
the Tigers, even though they didn’t get in. He lead the majors in RBI’s, had 39
home runs, and a .328 average. Josh Hamilton went for 32 home runs, 100 rbi’s,
and a .359 batting average. Even more impressive is that these were basically his
numbers up to September. He got hurt at the beginning of the month and didn’t
play until the final weekend.

The negatives are that Miguel’s team didn’t reach the postseason and Hamilton’s
team did, even though he missed the last month.

While Cabrera’s numbers are great, they’re only slightly better than Cano’s.
.319 versus .328 for Miguel. 29 homers versus 38 for Miguel. 109 rbi’s versus
126 for Miguel Cabrera. 41 doubles versus 45 for Miguel. So the numbers are
almost even. And even if you consider that all these numbers favor Cabrera, you
still have to mention the fact that Cano’s team is going to the playoffs, while
the Tigers were out of it for about a month. Plus there’s also the fact that
Cabrera is their cleanup hitter, having the table set for him every game. Cano
did all his damage primarily from the number 5 spot.

Hamilton’s numbers are even closer, or even surpassed by Cano. Only his .359
average is vastly superior to Cano’s. Hamilton didn’t beat Cano by much in
terms of home runs, and his RBI total will stand at 100, where Cano had 109.
Cano also more hits than Hamilton. It’s probably true though that if Hamilton
were healthy for the month of September, there wouldn’t be any debate at all.
Hamilton was on a roll. He probably would have ended the season with 40+ home
runs, his RBI total would probably best Cabrera’s, and more likely than not,
his average would have remained superior to all. The AL MVP would easily be
his, about as uncontested as Mauer’s in 2009. But then he had to miss most of
the last month of the season. While the Rangers had a nice lead over their next
opponent, it could have become a shaky one. The Oakland A’s were going on a
run, and they were still games to play with the Rangers. But it never came to
that. The Rangers plowed through, never really being tested. They clinched the
AL West easily enough, and did this without the help of Hamilton. They really
didn’t need him at all. Their division title was as uncontested as Hamilton’s
bid for the MVP would have been if he didn’t miss those games.

So now we come down to one of my favorite Yankee players…

What do you know? Robbie Cano!

Robinson Cano played pretty much the entire year. The first game he took off
was a few days before the All Star Game. His second day off was only about a
month ago. And that’s it for his ‘sick days’. He went to work the rest of the
season. He provided the protection everyone was looking for in the number 5
spot in the order. He helped keep pitchers honest in throwing strikes to A-Rod
ahead of him. He wasn’t the easy out people could exploit. He was patient at
the plate, earning a career high in walks, including 14 intentional walks. He
was truly a threat in the lineup. No longer relegated to just a number 7
hitter, and then a number 6 hitter, he flourished with the task given to him.
The average with runners in scoring position was a thing of the past. His
defense improved over an already improved defense, committing only 3 errors all
year. His accurate and strong arm are lauded across baseball. His power is only
starting to reach it potential, as evidenced this year.

And then I have to mention the fact that he filled in more than capably in the
cleanup role while Alex was out for an extended time. The team relied on him
when they needed him and he came through. What more is there to say except :

Robinson Cano is the American League Most Valuable Player in 2010.

Hopefully the voters can look past the fact that he is a Yankee, and is
probably the fourth best position player on the team. What truly matters is
that he has come through all year for his team, in a year where those same
players that are supposedly better than him needed someone else’s help. What
truly matters is that he played all year, and helped his team to the playoffs.
What truly matters is that this kid has finally matured and is now showing the
promise, and maybe even more, that we all hoped for over five years ago.

Soriano who? Exactly.

Now it’s time to give Cano his due recognition. And by the way, it’s Canó, like
Cah-no!

Phew! Way to go Alex…

Wow, didn’t think he’d get to it a few weeks ago…

Alex Rodriguez hit his 30th home run of the season tonight, with three games left on the schedule. This makes 14 consecutive years of at least 30 home runs and 100 rbi’s. This was definitely less dramatic than last year, when he had 28 home runs and 93 rbi’s going into that game. He hadn’t hit one in his previous 8 games. So of course it looked like the streak would end, unless he had a crazy game. By the fifth inning, you’d have to hope for a crazy next few innings, but the chances were really remote by that point. It was a 2-0 game for the Rays, and it seemed like a sleepy win was going to be there’s.

And then the sixth! Alex is up with two men on and boom! Home run! Well, at least the records will show that he was pretty damn close to keeping the streak going… 29 home runs and 96 rbi. I guess this is good enough. You can’t really expect his luck to give him another 4 rbi’s and another home run in this game, right? I mean it was his first homer in over a week! If this were a movie, maybe he’d come up again with the bases loaded…

And then he’s up again with the bases loaded in the same inning! And he hits a grand slam… What an animal…

Anyway, that was last year. For whatever reason, A-Rod just didn’t have the power early on. If I remember right, he had 14 home runs by the All Star Game this year. So it looked like it would be close again… But by August 14 he only had 18 home runs. 12 more home runs by the end of the season didn’t seem doable for him this year. Then he had that 3 home run game against KC that 14th of August. Now 9 home runs looks a lot easier!

But then another lull….

And then another streak! His home runs have been like a roller coaster ride! The last two weeks he’s hit 8 home runs to get him to 30. He looks as good at the plate as he has all year. He looks like he’s a force to be reckoned with once more.

I’m sure he’s had this in mind. Not playing with everyone’s emotions, just having that number in mind. A goal. In Texas he had back to back 50 home run seasons. After that the streak became 40 home runs in 6 consecutive seasons. He left Texas and that streak became at least 35 home runs. That streak became a 30 home run streak last year. So he may not be putting up the same monster home run numbers he used to, but there’s a goal every year. I think he made it a mission to keep this going. I can see this driving him, which isn’t a bad thing. Baseball has a long season, and as long as the rbi’s keep coming along with the HR’s, I hope he keeps it going.

I hope for another 30 next year too…

Bad AJ! Bad!

So AJ does it again for us! He puts us in a hole early on and the team just can’t get out of it.

You just never know with this guy anymore.

At least if he were more consistent with who he struggles against, but there’s no pattern with him. Maybe he gets beat up by the better teams, or loses focus against the weaker teams? No, we don’t get the satisfaction of knowing what he’s going to be like on any given night.

I should have known this would happen tonight. I tried playing a game of MLB 10 : The Show in my season. Of course AJ was up next in the rotation, and wow he had nothing! His fastball was up at 95mph, but there was no control, no matter how close I got the pitching meter to the ‘release point’. Fastballs were erratic, 2 seamers were flat, and the curveball didn’t break as it should have. After getting ahead 2-0, the other team eventually took the lead. AJ sort of settled down, and I gave the curveball more break and used the 2 seamers low in the zone. So he actually made it until the sixth, giving up six runs. Then came the home runs. Sigh… Just like real life.

And then, just like in real life, AJ had sort of the same issues in the real game… So maybe I jinxed tonight’s game? He gave up the same seven runs he did in real life tonight. (I came back to tie the game, but the game froze so we’ll never know how it would’ve ended…)

I can only hope AJ has a better season next year. And a much better playoffs this year…

Whew…..!

What a crazy game!

The Yankees get a win after blowing the lead, after being down all game. Well most of the game. A-Rod was clutch with the two run homer in the seventh, and the way this game was going it looked like that would be all the Yankees would need.

But nothing is ever that easy, is it?

Mariano has looked a little suspect lately, and he gave up the lead with players running all over him. Don’t want to say it reminded me of 2004, but… I don’t know what it is, but he’s gotta come back as the old Mariano. I don’t think he’s hurt and not telling anyone. I think it might just be rust. He really hasn’t pitched much. He last pitched six days ago. And the day before was the blown save against the Orioles. The last two weeks have been kind of light for him, game wise. I think he needs his rhythm back.

They fought back, but again had way too many opportunities to win it. Bases loaded in the ninth and tenth. To only come out of each inning with one run isn’t very clutch. The fact that they did those chances does show some heart though. I just wish they didn’t have to rely on a walk-off walk to win! Though I’m glad they did…

So! Magic number at one to clinch a playoff spot. That means they can’t let up against Toronto. They’ve been real pesky all year, and I doubt they’re just going to roll over for anyone. They need to be real aggressive and not let up against these guys. If AJ can get a win in a meaningful game, it should hopefully do some good for him. (and wow, just heard Jack Curry say this about ten minutes after writing it…!)

And with Tampa losing today, that means the Yanks are only half a game behind again. We can’t rule out winning the division, and the best record in the league. It’s definitely not over!

It ain’t over til it’s over!

Whew…..!

And can we get some pie for Mr. Miranda, please?

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