Mussina Wins 20! In Mariano We Trust

Boy, do I love being wrong about such things.  First, I didn’t expect Mussina to have a great year and, after reinventing himself, he did.  Then, after Mussina struggled against Tampa September 13, I figured that ended Mussina’s bid for 20 since he needed to win his final three starts.  Given the team’s sluggish play to that point, I didn’t see it happening.  Thankfully, that too was wrong, for Mike Mussina, for the first time in his career, has won 20 games after today’s 6-2 victory.  Mussina was efficiently dazzling through six, allowing just three hits and walking two while fanning three on a mere 73 pitches/48 strikes.  He threw first-pitch strikes to 16 of the 21 batters he faced and ended his stint by getting Pedroia, possibly the AL MVP, to ground into a 4-6-3 DP.

Before getting to a brief recap, I just can’t say how impressed I am with Mussina’s 2008 season–20-9, 3.37 ERA, 150 K/31 BB.  Just as impressive, Mussina’s career stats after such an impressive year look increasingly Hall-of-Fame worthy–270-153, 2,813 K/785 BB, 3.68 ERA; 123-72 as a Yankee.  Is Mussina worthy of the Hall if this was his last game, as Pete Abraham has reported that he might retire?  I think so.  Those are impressive numbers, the 20-win mark is there at long last and, whether or not Mussina ever has a ring, he was one of the best of his generation.  When the Yanks acquired Mussina, I was far from alone in my salivating over Moose in pinstripes.  He had some disappointments, mainly in the post-season, but some great moments then too–nearly throwing a perfect game in Fenway September 2, 2001, the Game 3 gem in the 2001 ALDS, pitching 3 great innings in relief of an ineffective Clemens to help keep the Yanks in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS.  Terrific Yankee pitcher, and worthy of serious Hall-of-Fame consideration, to me.  When I have time, I’ll compare his stats to others in the Hall.  We’ll see if he continues to pitch but, if not, Mussina deserves it with his current numbers.

Nady broke a scoreless tie in the fourth with a homer to right, his 25th of the year and 12th as a Yankee, 3-0 Yankees.  As I’m writing this, I just called a Bills interception that was returned for a touchdown to make it 20-14 Bills.  I’m listening to the Bills-Rams game via the Internet and, as the Rams lined up for the first play of the fourth quarter ahead 14-13 in a tough, tight contest, I said, How about an interception?  Lo and behold, it happened and Jabari Greer ran it back for the score.  I love when that happens, and I’m still chuckling.  A little luck and a big coincidence never hurt anyone.

Back to the recap.  After Mussina pitched his excellent six, Phil Coke pitched a terrific seventh, fanning 2 in his 1-2-3 stint.  But Joba struggled in the eighth, allowing a hit and a walk before being pulled for Bruney, who got the first two outs of the eighth, including a grounder that cut the lead to 3-1 Yanks.  Girardi then went to Marte and Ellsbury’s single to left cut it to 3-2, jeopardizing Mussina’s bid for 20.  But Mariano, the greatest relief pitcher ever, who might need off-season surgery on his right shoulder, fanned Pedroia on three pitches.  The Yankees made it count, adding three more in the top of the 9th off Papelbon.  Cano singled, Ransom’s single moved Cano to third, Molina’s sac fly to right made it 4-2, Gardner singled to center, JD’s walk loaded the bases, and Melky’s soft grounder to third made it 5-2.  Lowrie couldn’t handle A-Rod’s soft grounder to short, 6-2 Yanks.  Mariano worked around a lead-off E6 for his 39th save of the year and the 482nd of his incomparable career.

Great for Mussina, first and foremost.  Thanks for someone as brilliant as Mariano to close it down, even more impressive considering what he’s endured this year.  Nady was 2-4 with the three-run homer.  Cano was 3-4.  Ransom and A-Rod each had two hits, and the Yanks worked over Papelbon in the ninth.  We’ll see if they can play the second game with all the rain in the area.  Whether or not, it’s been a terrific end to an uneven, disappointing season at least for Mussina getting his 20th, and Mariano ending it with a save.  89-72 going into the finale.

Published in: on September 28, 2008 at 5:34 pm  Comments (4)  

Yankees-Boston Postponed; Sunday Double-Header

The rain that was long predicted has washed out today’s game, meaning that they will play two tomorrow, at 1:35 and 7:35.  I hope this means lots of tryouts for the kids and call-ups.

I’ll likely be tuning in to Penn St./Illinois tonight.  I’ve long been a Nittany Lions fan (ripped off in 1994 big time), and though I expect Illinois to give them a game, predict Penn St. will win 44-27–if the weather doesn’t get too bad.  If it pours, Illinois might be able to keep it close enough to pull one out on the road.  I don’t see it, however, not without causing turnovers and being much better on both sides of the ball than Illinois has been in the first few games.  Penn St. is deep and talented, a really good team that with Wisconsin is as good as it gets in the Big Ten.

Published in: on September 27, 2008 at 4:23 pm  Comments (1)  

Tough Break; Big Win; Paul Newman, 1923-2008; First Presidential Debate

My daughter broke her left wrist at her soccer game this morning, the same wrist she broke three years ago.  As she got the ball and headed up the middle of the field, a girl a bit bigger than she from the other team bowled her over before getting the ball, an unnecessary and, to me, dirty play.  GLG landed on her left wrist and side hard.  She’s in good spirits but I was pissed about the play.  It took some restraint not to yell out about it, but my concern was with my daughter first, and nothing good would have been accomplished by upbraiding a pre-teen kid.  That ends soccer season for her unfortunately, and disrupts her playing piano.

The world lost a great actor and decent human being today with the passing of Paul Newman, dead at the age of 85.  Best known for starring roles in “Cat On a Hot Tin Roof,” “Hud,” “The Hustler,” “Somebody Up There Likes Me,” “Cool Hand Luke,” “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” “The Sting,” “Slap Shot,” “The Verdict,” “The Color of Money,” “Blaze,” “The Hudsucker Proxy” among many others, Newman was also a race car driver and owner as well as a kind-hearted philanthropist.  His Newman’s Own brands raised well over $200 million for charitable and educational purposes since the company’s founding in the 1980s, donating all post-expenses earnings to various causes.  You’ll certainly be missed, Mr. Newman.

Big win last night, with the Yankees exploding for 19 runs to beat the Red Sox 19-8, scoring in every inning but the sixth.  I didn’t see it because by the time it got started after a lengthy rain delay, the presidential debate was on and that was must-see TV for me.  Also, after the debate, I was just exhausted and called it a night.  Abreu scored four times and drove in 100 runs for the 6th straight year joining A-Rod and Pujols, Cody Ransom looks like candidate number 1 to replace Wilson Betemit as bench help with two homers and a 3-3 night, Cano had 2 doubles and drove in 5 runs, A-Rod had his 102nd RBI and Giambi drove in his 96th, JD homered (his 17th, with 71 RBIs, batting .305), Nady was 3-5 with 4 runs, Brett Gardner was 2-6 with 4 RBIs, and Chad Moeller was 2-4 with an RBI.  The #6-9 hitters were 10-20 with 6 runs and 10 RBIs.  Pete Abraham brought up a good question, speculating what might have happened had Girardi benched Cano in May.  It’s a fair question, though merely academic at this point. Seven two-out RBIs and 3 sac flies–color me impressed, if long overdue.

After going 0-2, Jeter came out, won’t play today and is unlikely to play tomorrow with a sore hand.  It looks likely that he’s done for the year.  If so, it would be his 10th .300 season and 4th straight, a remarkable accomplishment all the more so because he was in all likelihood playing injured after Cabrera hit him on the hand. Still, quite a year–.300, most hits in Yankee Stadium, 2,535 and counting for his career. Here’s to a healthy 2009 for him and the Yankees, for it couldn’t be much more unhealthy.

Phil Coke finally allowed a run in the fifth, the first of his major-league career to leave his ERA it a whopping 0.66.  He’s been a good late-season call-up without question and deserves a full shot at the 2009 squad.  Good to see Robertson pitched 2 scoreless innings, allowing 1 hit and fanning 3.  He too deserves a shot, and hopefully gets to finish a nice but uneven 2008 on a high note.  Aceves got touched up a bit, allowing 4 runs earned in 4 IP, but three of those were in the first on two homers. One iffy outing in six appearances to end 2008 from Aceves.  He deserves a shot as well.  If these three don’t make the 2009 roster–and I wouldn’t be surprised to see any of them on it, depending on off-season moves–SWB is not a bad option for any of the three to be ready and active.  All three have impressed me.

Gardner sure is making the most of his playing time, another good sign.  Mike Sommer must be like a proud Papa.  He’s 13 for his last 33 (.394) and is 18-59 (.305) since being called back up.  Just as importantly as the progress in his hitting, he’s played a terrific center field, making spectacular plays and tracking down many balls with ease with his blazing speed.  I sure could live with some variation of Melky’s 2006–7 HR, 50 RBI, .280/.360, 12/17 stolen bases in 130 games.  Yet within that amount of games, I doubt that he’ll get seven homers (unless they’re in-the-park, and I won’t rule that out) without developing some power and fast, but you could expect a lot more than 12 stolen bases (since he has 11 in 40 games this year) and, with continued progress, the .280/.360 is realistic.  We’ll see, but his progress gives the Yanks lots of options for 2009.  To me, he’s at worst the Yanks’ fourth outfielder since Matsui’s knees make him iffy in the field and he seems a likely DH candidate–if he stays.  There’s no way Gardner shouldn’t be in the mix for 2009.  He’s too important, too good in the field, and too downright disruptive on the bases not to be on the team and playing.

On last night’s debate, call it a slight win for Obama for last night’s topic–foreign policy–was supposed to be McCain’s bailiwick.  I didn’t see it, though McCain wasn’t awful.  McCain was forceful and displayed some knowledge, but his constant refrain about Obama’s alleged “naivete” was laughable when one listened to Obama, who was informed, clear, and well-spoken on foreign policy.  It just didn’t hold from McCain.  Obama also has his opposition to the war on Iraq on his side, which McCain supported, although I was more than a little uneasy by his seeming desire to wade more heavily into Afghanistan, long-ignored trouble spot that it is.  Despite Kissinger’s attempts to patch it up today, he did echo what Obama said about meeting with Iran without pre-conditions, so Obama was right on that.  McCain is trying to conflate meeting with Iran with giving things away to Iran, and the two aren’t the same as any cursory investigation would reveal.  I also think McCain’s going to have difficulty selling the American public on his floating a spending freeze on everything but the military and veterans’ affairs when there are deep, long-neglected needs this country has–infrastructure, education, high-speed broadband for localities and businesses, national health care, job development in the private and public sectors, and much more.  McCain didn’t stumble (except on the name of Ahmadinejad, thrice) or fare poorly, and both candidates started out nervously, to me.  Obama is clearly better spoken and more poised, important in debates but somewhat cosmetic overall–though there is the importance of actually communicating ideas that I consider important. What was important to me was how prepared and organized Obama was, often listing points and policy prescriptions that McCain usually failed to do.  This is important in its own right, and reveals down the road that Obama just has more ideas and initiatives that he successfully conveys, and McCain doesn’t–especially on the economy.  McCain lacked specifics in many answers, especially early. Interestingly, McCain avoided eye contact practically throughout the whole night with Obama, from the opening to the closing handshakes and during the “face-to-face” time.  There’s a lot to infer from that–disdain, anger, fear, disrespect.  Regardless, that McCain couldn’t bring himself to so much as look at Obama showed a lack of respect, confidence, and poise.  Obama was just much better on his feet, not too surprisingly.

It wasn’t a make-or-break night for either candidate, but telling is that during the debates, self-described independents reacted much more strongly to Obama than McCain during the live response polling, especially over the economy and the wars.  That’s not a good sign for McCain.  Those may shake out differently over the next couple days, but Obama should feel that he fared pretty well on what was considered McCain’s “turf.”

Published in: on September 27, 2008 at 1:35 pm  Comments (6)  

Girardi, Please Stop Impersonating Sarah Palin

Honestly, how many times is Joe Girardi going to get caught in outright lies about the physical condition of his players?  Now, according to most New York media outlets, Mariano Rivera returned to New York to get his shoulder examined and, according to George King of The New York Post, might need surgery to clean out bone spurs.  Whether or not he does, Mariano clearly did not return to New York because of a “cranky body.”  He’s not in need of some bran or a nap.  He has an arm problem of some kind, but Girardi yet again lied to the New York media and the rest of us about it.  For what benefit?  Was it somehow a mystery that Mariano would pitch the 9th inning of the last game in Yankee Stadium?  This yet again raises serious questions about Girardi’s aptitude and judgment, not simply his PR skills.  What did he know about this and when?  Did he know about a potential arm problem while Mariano was pitching four times in five games?  If so, since the Yankees had almost no shot at the post-season, why was he out there?  This isn’t the author pitching, it’s Maaaaariiiiiaaaaannooooo Riiiiiveeeeeraaaaa, the greatest closer eeeeeveeeeerrrrr.  According to Pete Abraham, Girardi got so petulant at the media’s questioning him on the misleading statements that he slammed “his fist down on his desk.”  Awww, poor baby, caught in another lie.

This is a manager about whom it was reported that he and Eiland had daily briefs about pitchers’ status, workload, and condition every day.  Again, considering the point of the season and the player involved, the greatest closer in baseball history, what the hell was the point of lying?  Disgraceful, and it calls into focus a whole range of possible second-guessing on Girardi’s in-game managing.  Is he telling people the truth about why he did things he did?  Did he lie about why he pulled pitchers and players, why he did or didn’t use certain players (which he has already done), why he did or didn’t put on or take off certain plays (was he paying enough attention or fully aware of history and/or the situation)?  Is he simply prone to lamely covering his own ass?  Personally, I doubt he’s clueless or incompetent, just apt to lie for whatever reason.  Absolutely disgraceful.

What will he tells us next, that his year managing in Florida provided him with foreign-policy experience because of Miami’s proximity to Cuba?  Now that would simply be crazy.

[Edit: Via Abraham, here is a new wrinkle in the Girardi-Mariano story.  Girardi still was lying, though covering for Mariano.  OK, it makes sense, but after Cashman let the truth be known, be honest with people Joe G, promise to Mariano or not.  It’s nice for him to cover for a player, which was apparent as of yesterday, but he has a bad history with handling.  More amazing, how much more impressive is Mariano’s 2008 in light of his statement that he’s had a sore shoulder ALL YEAR?  Abraham:

Just spoke to Mariano Rivera. He has been been pitching with a sore shoulder all season. There is inflammation and calcification. He has been given two options: a series of injections and rehab or surgery. He has not made a decision but seems to be leaning toward the surgery.

As to the events of last night …

Rivera told Girardi on Tuesday that his body was cranky. He told him on Wednesday before he left Toronto that his shoulder was hurt. Mariano told Girardi he wanted to break the news to the media. Mariano is the kind of guy who doesn’t want anybody speaking for him.

So Girardi invented the “it’s his standard physical” story. But Cashman went with the truth. When Girardi was confronted with the truth after the game, he stuck with his lie.

The whole thing likely could have been avoided if they all managed to get on the same page in the first place. Once the cat was out of the bag, Girardi should have copped to it. Once the general manager of the team admits the truth, it’s out there. Kudos to Girardi for doing what Mo wanted. But they needed to find a better way to do it.

Essentially, none of that much matters. What does is that Rivera believes he will be ready for spring training. Meanwhile, it’s pretty amazing that he has had the season he has had with a bum shoulder.]

Published in: on September 26, 2008 at 11:51 am  Comments (2)  

No Tears, Just Thanks

I see that despite the Yanks’ 3-1 win over Toronto last night, Boston’s victory officially eliminated the Yankees from post-season competition and ended their streak of 13 straight post-season appearances.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, you won’t get any tears from me over this.  To be clear, it isn’t as though I won’t miss the enormous rush that is October baseball, which I will and absolutely love.  It isn’t as though I didn’t want them in the post-season, for I certainly did and do.  It isn’t as though I’m unemotional about sports and the Yankees in particular, for I certainly am.  It’s just that, rather than being upset about it, my overriding sense is one of pride and especially thanks.  More than anything else, I’m thankful to have witnessed one of the greatest runs in the history of baseball and sports, and in my mind the greatest dynasty of my lifetime, the 1996-2000 Yankees.  Truly and sincerely, thank you for everything.

Thank you to Buck Showalter and Stick Michael for rebuilding the Yankees and re-instilling some pride and hunger into the organization, getting rid of unappreciative under-performers such as Mel Hall and Jesse Barfield and replacing them with Boggs, O’Neill, picking up Jimmy Key, using Bob Wickman and Bernie, and turning the team around and fast.  The 1996-2000 Yankees simply would not have been without Buck and Stick, no doubt in my mind.  Nor would they have been so without Don Mattingly, whose leadership and play through some dim years set the tone and a fine example to up-and-coming players such as Bernie and O’Neill.  Mattingly’s great moments in the 1995 playoffs were tremendous personal and team memories, crushing a big homer in Game 2 of the 1995 ALDS that nearly brought down the house.  Thanks, Cap.

Thanks to the 1996 Yankees for reminding this writer what it was like to be able to hold your index finger high and with pride for a year.  My first words after Charlie Hayes caught the foul ball for the final out in the Game 6 clincher were, “So this is what it’s like to back a winner?”  Having been a Bills fan and endured some real, consistent sports pain, and having been a young kid when the Yankees won in 1977 and 1978, I remembered the excitement of those Yankees back-to-back championships but completely lacked the perspective of how precious it really was as a kid.  The next 18 years, capped with the tremendous comeback in the ’96 series, brought that perspective in such a deep, resounding way that will never leave me.

Thanks to Wade Boggs for his horseback ride.

Thanks to Darryl Strawberry for being a vital player and great teammate.

Thanks to Doc Gooden for the no-hitter May 14 against Seattle, showing us all you still had it.

Thanks to Jeffrey Maier.

Thanks to Bernie Williams for positively owning Texas then Baltimore in the 1996 playoffs.

Thanks to Mariano Rivera for having one of the greatest years in 1996 (8-3, 2.09 ERA, .994 WHIP, 107 2/3 IP, 130 K, 3rd in CYA, 12th in MVP voting) for any reliever–as a set-up man for Wetteland.

Thanks to David Cone for turning the 1996 WS around with an excellent, gutsy Game 3 effort.

Thanks to Jim Leyritz for his three-run, game-tying blast in the 8th inning of Game 4, the sound heard ’round the world that Frank the Sage refers to as “G’DUZH!!” as it ricocheted off the boards behind the wall in Fulton County’s left field.

Thanks to Wade Boggs for the patience earning the bases-loaded walk in the 10th inning of Game 4 for the game-winning run.

Thanks to Lefty for one of the best, most clutch starts in World Series history in Game 5, outdueling John Smoltz, and for an outstanding 1996 season and rest of his career.

Thanks to Paul O’Neill for that tremendous running catch to his right, on a bum hamstring, off Luis Polonia’s bat to end Game 5.

Thanks to Jimmy Key for a terrific Game 6 win, outdueling Greg Maddux.

Thanks to Graeme Lloyd for being an absolute nightmare for Fred McGriff and Ryan Klesko throughout the 1996 World Series.

Thanks to Joe Girardi for that go-ahead triple in the third inning of Game 6.  The collective “YEAH!!” from the crowd when the ball landed in deep center was confirmation that the game was over, in my mind.

Thanks to John Wetteland for not only closing lots of games and the clincher, but also the tutelage for your successor, the greatest of all time, Mariano Rivera.

Thanks to Joe Torre for your calm leadership and genuine emotion after the 1996 victory and all others.  You’re missed more than you know.

Thanks to the 1998 Yankees, the greatest team in the desegregated era of baseball by a mile in my opinion, and the greatest in team sports in my lifetime.  After starting 0-3 and 1-4, that team ripped off victories in chunks, going from 1-4 to 23-6 in a month to 61-20 at the break.  After a somewhat sluggish late August into September, they won their last 7 of the year and, after going 11-2 in the playoffs, finished a remarkable 125-50 with a .714 winning percentage.  How much more serendipitous than that can it get, with their winning percentage being the same statistic as Babe Ruth’s grand home run total?  Watching them every day was nothing short of a privilege that I will never forget or fail to appreciate.

Thanks to David Wells for the perfect game May 17, 1998.

Thanks to Darryl Strawberry for showing what a great teammate he was by sticking up for Tino when Armando Benitez beaned him.  Were it not for the slippery steps to the visitors’ dugout, rescue crews would still be picking up the remains of Benitez’s face.  I am no fan of brawls, but Strawberry’s example was key to a team with enough young players that veteran leadership and some well-timed toughness are crucial to set a no-nonsense tone.

Thanks to Bernie for being the first player to amass a batting title, gold glove, All-Star appearance, and World Series ring in the same year in 1998.  Brilliant, Bernie.  Brilliant.

Thanks to a great acquisition in El Duque Hernandez, whose 12-4 1998 season all but assured the Yankees of a World Series title.  His Game 4 ALCS start against Cleveland, when the Yankees trailed 2 games to 1, was one of the best, most clutch starts the Yankees have ever had, propelling the Yankees to the ALCS and World Series win as they won seven straight to close the 1998 post-season, just as they closed the 1998 regular season with seven straight wins.  El Duque was a clutch, fearless, big-game pitcher to whom I’d hand the ball in any big game, any time.

Thanks to another great acquisition in Scott Brosius, who had what was in my opinion the greatest season a nine-hole hitter ever had (19 HR, 98 RBI, .300/.371, All-Star, WS MVP) in 1998, was just clutch throughout his four years with the Yanks, and was one hell of a fielder.

Thanks to Tino for being a great two-way first baseman for the Yanks, for being a huge fan favorite, and for his go-ahead grand slam in the seventh inning of Game 1 in the 1998 Series, part of “7 in the 7th.”

Thanks to the 1999-2000 Yankees for their solidifying this era as dynastic and utterly dominant.

Thanks to Chili Davis, who never got enough credit for being a great player and teammate, for being an excellent player and leader on a team with no shortage of either.

Thanks to David Cone for his dominant perfect game July 18, 1999.

Thanks to Derek Jeter for having the best offensive year of his career in 1999.

Thank you El Duque and Cone for absolutely shutting down the Braves right out of the chute in Games 1 and 2 of the 1999 Series.  Combined, they allowed 2 hits–one apiece–1 run, walked 6 and fanned 14.  The Series was pretty much over when they dominated in Atlanta.

Thanks to Chad Curtis for his two homers in Game 3 of the 1999 Series, including his tenth-inning walk-off.  It was even more “pretty much over” then.

Thanks to Mariano Rivera for providing one of the best examples of his brilliant dominance that even his opponents have been forced to appreciate.  With one out in the top of the ninth in Game 4 of the 1999 World Series, Mariano sawed Ryan Klesko’s bat into chunks on three straight pitches, prompting the great Chipper Jones to put his head down, shaking it and chuckling to himself as Klesko continually returned to the bench for replacement lumber to be turned into toothpicks.  Here it was in Game 4 of what would be another Yankees World Series sweep, the 12th straight World Series game the Yankees were about to win, the second time in four years the Yankees were about to storm the Braves, and Chipper Jones was brought to an act of impromptu admiration for Mariano’s unrivaled greatness.  Classic moment among so many for Mariano, the 1999 World Series MVP.

Thanks to Roger Clemens for, among many other accomplishments as a Yankee, that complete-game, one-hitter monstrosity imposed upon the Mariners in Game 4 of the 2000 ALCS, fanning 15.  Possibly on the roids then and otherwise?  Yes.  Still, it was nothing short of incredible to see, the best post-season start I’ve ever witnessed.

Thanks to David Justice for a great second half of 2000, and the monstrous homer off Yankee whipping mule Arthur Rhodes in Game 6 of the 2000 ALCS.

Thanks to Derek Jeter for his outstanding 2000 World Series MVP performance, for leading off Game 4 with a homer that I’d swear Chuck Knoblauch called for, as he and the rest of the team walked out of the dugout to greet Jeter after it, Knoblauch–who didn’t start Game 4–clapped as Bernie walked astride Knoblauch, pointing to him and saying something along the lines of, “He said it.”

Thanks to Luis Sojo for the seeing-eye single in the Game 5 clincher.

Thanks to the Yankees for serving as a tremendous unifying force and public-service role in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. You were even more inspiring than usual.

Thanks to Jeter for the flip against Oakland in Game 3 of the 2001 ALDS.  I immediately left the bedroom where I was watching the game and folding laundry so I could audibly cheer and not wake my infant son, who was sleeping in the bedroom.  I told my wife right there that that play would turn the series around and they would win.  It did and they did.

Thanks to Mike Mussina for a gem of a start that Game 3 of the 2001 ALDS.

Thanks to Tino, Jeter (“Mr. November”), and Scotty B. for the WS heroics.

Thanks to the fans at Yankee Stadium on November 1, 2001 who showered Paul O’Neill with continuous chants of “PAUL O’NEILL!!” during the ninth inning of Game 5 of the 2001 World Series, even though the Yankees were down 2 runs at the time.  Talk about getting teary watching a baseball game.  I was a mess before being overjoyed when Brosius homered.

Thanks to Jason Giambi for the May 17, 2002 grand slam in the rain to beat Minnesota, and for keeping the Yankees in the game against Boston in Game 7 of the incredible 2003 ALCS.

Thanks to Jeter, Bernie, Matsui, and Posada for the rally against Pedro to tie Game 7 in the eighth inning.  Thank you too, Grady Little.

Thanks to Mariano Rivera for three scoreless innings in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS.  That was as money as Mariano has ever been.

Thanks to Aaron Boone for the phenomenal dramatics in the eleventh inning of Game 7, homering into the night to win the series.  Frank the Sage said before the ALCS that AB would be big in the series.  Up until then, he wasn’t, but that was as big as big could be.  As soon as the ball was hit, my hands immediately went straight up into the air, right with Boone’s, and my subsequent five minutes of uncontrollable laughter awoke the family despite my best efforts to stifle it.  Forget it.  I finally called The Sage when I stopped laughing and he answered the phone laughing uproriously.  “I just got done doing that and couldn’t speak until I calmed down,” I told him.  “Well, there’s that too,” Frank said, “but I expected a call right after the homer since we always speak about big games and especially the big moments.  When no one called, my wife started giving me grief. ‘Why has no one called? Where is the phone call you said would come?’ As soon as she said that, the phone rang and I knew it was you.”

Thanks to Derek Jeter for diving face-first into the stands and eating a seat handle in the twelfth inning of the 5-4 win against Boston July 1, 2004.  I literally stood with my left ear to the computer speaker for the several hours listening to the game, for my brother-in-law was in town with his family, and they were watching a movie in the living room with my family.  With the TV not six feet from the computer and my lacking headphones, I turned down the sound and listened over several coldies.  I can recall Sterling’s great call by heart which, along with the great play and the overwhelming crowd reaction, gave me goosebumps that have returned as I write this.  Sterling: Swung on and popped up.  Jeter on the run, MAKES A ONE-HANDED RUNNING CATCH! AND DIVES INTO THE PHOTOGRAPHERS’ AREA! OH YOU CAN’T BELIEVE IT! He raced, he caught it…and boy did he get beat up.  Oh, did he get beat up.  He is bloodied about the face. [As chants of “JETER! JETER! JETER! grew from the appreciative crowd] Aww, what a player! Derek Jeter, what a player! You CAN’T say enough about him! What is he?!? He’s a WINNER! That’s what he is, he’s a flat-out winner! No runs, one hit, two left, and  at the end of eleven and a half, it’s the Red Sox 3, and the Yankees 3. In my mind, never has Sterling been better.

Thanks to A-Rod for many monster seasons, including a great 2005 and an incredible, clutch 2007.  Do it again in 2009, kid.

Thanks to Mike Mussina for being a great Yankee pitcher.

Thanks to Tino for helping carry the Yankees in 2005 when they floundered, hitting ten homers in thirteen games in May, including in five straight games.  Vintage Tino.

Thanks to Bernie for capping the comeback against Tampa June 21, 2005.  Though trailing 10-2 after four innings, the Yankees mounted a furious comeback resulting in a 20-11 win.  With the bases loaded in the bottom of the eighth and Giambi intentionally walked, the crowd already started chanting “BERNIE! BERNIE! BERNIE!” when he was in the on-deck circle.  When he swatted the first pitch for a bases-clearing triple to center to give the Yankees a 13-11 lead they’d never relinquish and catapult them to a 13-run eighth, he stood on third as the crowd went absolutely crazy and showered Bernie with more, throaty chants of “BERNIE! BERNIE! BERNIE!” Classic moment, and no one deserved it more than Bernie.

Thanks to the 2005 Yankees for a great comeback to win the AL East for the eighth straight time after starting the season 11-19, capped by the great clincher Saturday, October 1, 2005 in Boston with Jeter hugging a tearful Joe Torre with all his might as the Yankees celebrated an incredible, improbable comeback with an 8-4 victory.

Thanks to Aaron Small coming out of nowhere to have an amazing 10-0 2005 season, with his best highlight to me being his scintillating September 3, 2005 complete-game, five-hit victory against Oakland, fanning Eric Chavez looking to win it.  The ear-to-ear grin on Small’s face as he walked off the mound toward Jorge, saying “How about that?” to the catcher as Jorge shook his hand and gave him the ball was inspiring.  He deserved everything he got that year and then some, a genuinely nice guy who was vital to that comeback.

Thanks to Shawn Chacon for his own excellent, 7-3, 2.85 ERA 2005 stint with the Yankees.  He and Small were instrumental to the Yanks’ comeback, pitching fearlessly and coming up on opponents sideways.

Thanks to Al Leiter for his great July 17, 2005 win in Boston, propelling the Yankees to a great second-half comeback that season.

Thanks to Jorge Posada, the guts of the team, for being a tremendous Yankee catcher in an incomparable lineage of great team catchers–Dickey, Yogi, Elston Howard, Thurman Munson, for your hanging onto the ball after getting plastered by Teixeira at the plate and later hitting the game-winning walk-off two-run homer to beat Texas 14-13 on May 16, 2006, among other memories.

Thanks to Bob Watson and Brian Cashman for building and sustaining great teams throughout this period.

Thanks to A-Rod for all the 2007 dramatics, including that walk-off three-run homer off Joe Borowski to beat Cleveland 8-6 April 19, and two homers in the same inning, the seventh, against Seattle in a 10-2 win September 5.

Thanks to the 2007 Yankees for an amazing comeback from starting 21-29 and finishing 73-39 the rest of the way.

Thanks to Mariano Rivera for being a Yankee, for all the success in the playoffs and World Series, in the clutch, for all the dominance and escape artistry, and at all times making it look easier than it’s ever been.  He’s not only the greatest relief pitcher I’ve ever seen, he’s one of the greatest pitchers I’ll ever see.

Thanks to Derek Jeter for being a Hall-of-Fame player, for all the clutch play, for being a terrific on-field leader and example of focus and hard work at all times, and for his great, heartfelt speech after the final game of Yankee Stadium September 21.

Thanks to George Steinbrenner for being so financially and emotionally invested in the Yankees, turning them around after the dismal CBS years and restoring them to greatness.  There have been lots of things about Steinbrenner that have bothered me–not worth recounting now–but the guy put everything he had into the Yankees, and I fully respect and appreciate that.  His tears and speechlessness in the locker room after the 1998 World Series, witnessing a team as close to baseball perfection as it will ever get, helped win me over to him, if begrudgingly so.

Thanks to Chien-Ming Wang for being a terrific starter.  Here’s to your much-awaited return in 2009.

Thanks to Joba for being a bright shining hope for the future, and to Phil Hughes for hopefully fulfilling his rich promise.

Thanks to Brett Gardner for the flashes of base paths blazing speed and center field prowess.

Thanks to Phil Coke and Humberto Sanchez for giving me even more hope for the future of the staff and bullpen.

Thanks to the Yankees for doing it more than right but grand for the 2008 All-Star Game and the emotional closing of Yankee Stadium September 21, 2008.

Thanks to Bernie for returning to Yankee Stadium one last time, my favorite moment of the pre-game ceremonies.

Thanks to Cone, Lefty, El Duque, Mariano, Key, Wells, Clemens, Bernie, Paulie, Donnie Baseball, Straw, Chili, Chad Curtis, Ricky Ledee, Jorge, Girardi, Tino, Knobby, Jeter, Hayes, Boggs, Scotty B., A-Rod, Shane Spencer, Mat-su, BA, Giambi, RC, Nady, and all others mentioned or forgotten above for being Yankees.

2009 awaits, as I eagerly will for it.

Published in: on September 24, 2008 at 10:32 am  Comments (8)  


Before tonight’s game, I wanted to thank everyone for coming by Sunday for the last HDLR of the year and, more importantly, the last HDLR of Yankee Stadium.  It was a blast, and helped set a one-day record of visits here at The Heartland of 964 individual hits after 7 p.m. CDT. Combined with the 359 hits from 7 p.m. Saturday to Sunday at 7 (when the tracker set to Greenwich Median switches), there were 1,323 individual hits on the site, nearly all of which were on Sunday which blew me away.  For all its limitations, this site’s strenghts emanate mainly from the various readers who are good enough to come by and share great ideas and insights.  The Heartland simply wouldn’t be what it is without you all, and I am deeply indebted to you for that.

Published in: on September 23, 2008 at 9:34 am  Comments (5)  

Yankees 7 Orioles 3: Yankee Stadium Sent Off Right–Pettite Won, Mariano Closed Down the House That Ruth Built; Great Pre-Game Ceremonies; Great Post-Game Thanks

Tonight was great, positively great.  While it will sink in how bittersweet it is and was, and how sad it is that the Yankees won’t play at Yankee Stadium II anymore, right now my overwhelming sentiment is one of unbridled pride for the team and organization.  This was done right.  If it was going to close, as it surely was, the organization did this right from soup to nuts.  The pre-game ceremonies were immersed in the history and tradition of the team, the game saw the Yankees win, get Lefty his record-evening 14th win, the team winning the last game 7-3, Mariano closed it down as only he can, followed up with a generous post-game speech to the crowd by Captain Derek Jeter.

The pre-game ceremonies were very well done and touching.  It began with the team introducing the original lineup for the 1923 first game at Yankee Stadium–actors, but still, a nice touch.  They then introduced former players by position, with particular highlights occurring when Reggie Jackson and especially Paul O’Neill were introduced for right field, Tino at first, Nettles, Boggs, and especially Scott Brosius at third,  Boomer and Cone at pitcher, Yogi at catcher, and most of all Bernie Williams, the last player so honored in the pre-game ceremonies.  All the others received hearty and sustained applause with some receiving loud chants.  But Bernie received the longest, most sustained cheers that seemed to genuinely overwhelm him.  Conspicuously absent in the pre-game video tribute per position was Roger Clemens, whom the Yankees appear not to want to touch with a ten-foot pole.  I would have like to see Chuck Knoblauch appear, but he wasn’t in attendance.

The Orioles took advantage of an inconsistent Angel Hernandez strike zone and Andy Pettite leaving pitches up in the zone to score two early runs.  Peyton’s second-inning force plated Jones who had tripled, 1-0 Orioles.  In the third, Roberts reached on a Pettite throwing error, stole second, and scored on Mora’s single to right, 2-0 Orioles.  But the Yankees responded in the bottom of the third.  Matsui and Molina singled and, after I politiely requested that JD rope one around the pole in right, he homered to right, 3-2 Yankees.  Molina doubled in the fourth, Peyton singled to Pettite whose slow move off the mound allowed him to reach, and Roberts’s single tied it at 3.  But after Cano walked and took second on Matsui’s ground out, Molina hit the last homer in Yankee Stadium, 5-3 Yankees.  In the seventh, Abreu singled and stole second, A-Rod’s F9 moved Abreu to right and Giambi’s bloop single to left scored Abreu, 6-3 Yankees.  Gardner pinch-ran for Giambi, which was key for he went from first to third on an infield error at short, blazing to third, then scored on Cano’s sac fly to shallow left, 7-3 Yankees as Gardner’s blazing speed added insurance.

Coke was very good in relief, Joba was also excellent, and Mariano fittingly entered in the ninth to close down the Yankee Stadium in style.  After the game, Jeter made an announcement to the fans thanking them for everything while urging them to share their memories across generations and Stadiums, after which the team circled the field, waving and tipping their caps to the crowd.  It was all a grand way to close a majestic cathedral, a sad evening on the whole but one in which pride more than sadness was the primary sentiment that I felt on this tremendous, historic evening.  The Yankees sure know how to throw a celebration, which is exactly what this was. for which the fans should be proud even if sad to see the Stadium close.

New memories and achievements will characterize the new Stadium in due time.  Let’s ensure both that as well as the old ones and the previous historic venue not being forgotten.

Published in: on September 22, 2008 at 2:44 am  Comments (5)  

HDLR 9/21/08: Last HDLR of Yankee Stadium II

Hi everyone and welcome to the Heartland Digital Living Room where the hot dogs and chicken wings are always fresh, the beverages are always cold, the chin-wagging is always lively, and the tissues will be handy and amply provided as the Yankees play their last home game ever in Yankee Stadium 2.0.  Everyone’s emotions will undoubtedly be close to the surface as the Yankees close out the cathedral in grand fashion.  Be sure to be thankful for everything that The Stadium and the Yankees have provided us in it, all the games, memories, and milestones that we will always remember.  The Yankees will move to a new, lavish, spacious stadium nearby that will no doubt prove to be a great home to the Yankees and us as fans in its own right.  However, until then, only one place will be The Stadium and that place will always be unique, always be known as The Stadium in our hearts.  Below, as per Pete Abraham, are both the lineups and the Yankee Stadium patch, a copy of which I have as a magnet on my refrigerator.  Come on in, share your thoughts and memories, grab a digital leather recliner, a cold one, and a commemorative digital jersey, and enjoy the last game at Yankee Stadium.  With glassy eyes, LET’S GO, YANKEES!


YANKEES (84-71)
18 Johnny Damon CF
2 Derek Jeter SS
53 Bobby Abreu RF
13 Alex Rodriguez 3B
25 Jason Giambi 1B
22 Xavier Nady LF
24 Robinson Cano 2B
55 Hideki Matsui DH
26 Jose Molina C
46 Andy Pettitte LHP

ORIOLES (67-86)
1 Brian Roberts 2B
21 Nick Markakis RF
6 Melvin Mora 3B
17 Aubrey Huff DH
55 Ramon Hernandez C
10 Adam Jones CF
15 Kevin Millar 1B
16 Jay Payton LF
2 Juan Castro SS
29 Chris Waters LHP

Published in: on September 21, 2008 at 5:01 pm  Comments (519)  

Yankee Stadium

The New York Times has a slideshow of some memorable moments worth seeing.

I’ll probably add more throughout the day and beyond.

Published in: on September 21, 2008 at 11:54 am  Comments (10)  

Back For The Finale; Impressions of Newcomers

Sorry I didn’t open the HDLR yesterday and Friday as planned, but I was away at a conference in Chicago and was up very early and was back very late, after the games were over.  I did get to listen to practically all of Thursday night’s 9-2 victory.  Abreu smoked two homers and drove in 6 runs, giving him 95 RBIs as of Thursday night as he continued to make his strong case to return to the Yanks in 2009.  Jeter and Cano were each 2-3 with 2 runs and Jeter added his 69th RBI.  Mussina was excellent in winning his 18th game, going 6 strong and allowing only 5 hits, a run earned, walking 2 and fanning 4 on 97 pitches/61 strikes. [Edit: As I catch up on the past few games, great move by Girardi to take Mussina out in the middle of the seventh inning to allow the crowd to appreciate how terrific Mussina has been for the Yankees.  It was an excellent, touching moment with Girardi shaking Mussina’s hand, Mussina smiling on the mound, and receiving a grand, standing ovation as he was showered with “MOOOOOSE!” by the adoring crowd as Mussina doffed his cap.] It also marked the successful return to The Bronx of injury-plagued Humberto Sanchez, who worked a good, scoreless eighth on route to the win.  He’s a guy whose powerful stuff everyone would obviously love to see in The Bronx in 2009, and seeing highlights of him on the mound was great.  I never thought anyone would dwarf Chris Britton; Sanchez does.  The White Sox crew of Ed Farmer and Steve Stone, one of the very best radio crews in the business, were properly effusive in their reminiscence about The Stadium, sharing their memories during and especially after the game.  It was bittersweet, with a growing sense of gloom shading the victory.

I saw nothing of the Friday and Saturday victories.  PaVoldemort gave a pretty good effort Friday night from what it seemed.  Coke continues to impress in relief.  Brett Gardner made a tremendous catch off Luke Scott, saving PaVoldemort and the Yankees of a homer in the fourth.  Gardner got a great jump, getting on his horse right at the crack of the bat and sprinting straight back to the wall in center to make a perfectly-timed jump.  Amazing. The guy is making his own strong case for playing time in The Bronx in 2009, continually making excellent defensive plays in center.  Jeter contributed to the win and highlight reel with a patented jump throw to nail Adam Jones in the ninth.

Robinson Cano continued to play the game the right way Saturday after his recent benching, lining a single past second with the bases loaded in the ninth to beat Baltimore 1-0 yesterday. I was pleased to see the highlight of Cano’s single as I sipped a beer in a Chicago tavern.  I was equally pleased to see such emotion from the Yankees as they celebrated a big, walk-off win.  Regardless of the outcome of what has been a disappointing season, the team is still playing hard and to win, and that one clearly meant a lot as the team pushed to close out Yankee Stadium with a good string of victories. Alfredo Aceves continued to make his own mark, going 6 strong scoreless innings allowing 5 hits and 3 walks with 3 K’s on 92 pitches/58 strikes.  Jeter was hit on the hand with a pitch to start the ninth but, with X-Rays negative, Jeter vowed to play in tonight’s Stadium finale.  I suspect he’d play if the X-Rays were positive.

Speaking of which, there will be an HDLR tonight and it should be a sad one.  I’ll have everything open early for the televised festivities.  Thanks to Mike F. for sending this along, an excellent, touching piece from The New York Times by Paul Simon, a lifelong Yankees fan on The Stadium.  I’m honestly getting sadder as I write this, and know it will be a highly emotional night for Yankees fans everywhere.  The Stadium holds special memories for all of us, those who have been there, wished to have been there, who witnessed so many of the greatest memories in baseball either in person, on TV, or over the radio.  We’ve heard the roar of the crowd so many times as only Yankee Stadium could generate–loud, cacophanous, a concerted, unified roar if ever a sporting crowd could create one.  We’ve seen great players and great teams accomplish the historic, the glorious, and at times the seemingly impossible.  We’ve seen countless personal and team milestones right up through this trying year.  At every turn, the tremendous events at The Stadium have touched us deeply, shaped our respective and collective identities as fans, Yankees partisans, and people, spurred endless conversations about what they’ve meant to us, the game, and the sporting world, and stirred deep, passionate emotions often running the full panoply.  These have happened at the same (if significantly modified) location for 85 majestic, historic years and, while I’ve heard how great the new Stadium will be, it won’t be the same–even if it as great and rich with accomplishments, which would be saying a ton.  Things have changed and we all know it, highlighted all the more by the fact that the Yankees won’t be in the playoffs this year without the greatest of September miracles and collapses by the Red Sox.  Maybe the Yankees will rattle off another dynastic run to open the new Stadium.  Even if they do–and I would love nothing more than for them to do–it won’t be the same.

A cathedral, a monument is closing down for the Yankees–for us all–tonight.  Change is upon us, like it or not.  You can consider it good or bad, necessary or not, but there’s no doubt that it’s one thing for practically every Yankees fan I know–profoundly sad.  I hope to see everyone at some point later today to share, discuss, and commiserate about this historic, emotional day.

Please, please let Mariano close the game and Stadium with the last pitch in a win.  That would soothe things a little.

Published in: on September 21, 2008 at 9:59 am  Comments (2)