Not worth the debate • 01.30.13
As you might assume, I don’t schedule the Pinch Hitter posts based on when Alex Rodriguez might be accused of further steroid use. If I had the option I might have rearranged some things to begin this day with a Pinch Hitter post that perfectly fit yesterday’s bombshell, but there really wasn’t a perfect match in the hopper.
And really, wasn’t Gil’s post connected to the latest A-Rod drama in its own way?
Mariano Rivera is the most dominant pitcher of his generation, and he’s the greatest reliever in the history of baseball. Unless, of course, you prefer the career of a guy like Goose Gossage, who pitched more innings and often entered difficult situations much earlier in the game. Rivera vs. Gossage is a debate about baseball. It’s all about workload and dominance; wondering how Rivera would have done in Gossage’s shoes and vice versa. It’s about real, authentic greatness.
At no point is Rodriguez going to be a part of a conversation like that.
Let me be clear, I do not feel sorry for Rodriguez. I’ll certainly feel bad for him if this Miami New Times report proves to be untrue, but the fact is, Rodriguez created this state of distrust. It’s far easier to believe he’s still tainted than to believe he’s turned innocent. It might not be fair, but it’s his reality. And it’s a shame that it’s our reality, too.
You know what we should be doing this winter? We should be rooting for Rodriguez. He should be a rallying point; one of the game’s great players trying to come back from yet another injury. There should be pity, and there should be hope. There should not be animosity, and there should not be anger. There should not be betrayal.
Fact is, baseball loves a hero. The game has its share of villains, but it’s always cheered the good guys. If anything, baseball might have created too many idols.
Rodriguez will never be among them. I’m sure the baseball culture of the past two decades or so helped create this monster — the pressure and temptation to use performance enhancing drugs must have been immense — but Rodriguez caved. He was not the hero. He’s admitted to having given in for three years when he was younger, and now the easiest thing to do is believe that he did it again. The Yankees reportedly want to void his contract, and who can blame them? All of baseball would rather walk away from Rodriguez than rush to his defense.
Where does Alex Rodriguez rank among the greatest players of all time? The better and far sadder question is, does anyone really care?
Associated Press photo
I feel like I’ve written this before, and it remains perfectly true: I rarely notice uniform numbers. I know that Jeter is No. 2, and Mariano is No. 42, but if you go too far beyond the obvious name-number combinations, I really have to think about it to put the two together.
Further proof that there are endless ways to enjoy this game.
This morning, Vincent wrote all about numbers. Not sabermetrics, but the numbers on the players’ backs, including Shelley Duncan wearing No. 17 when he made his big league debut in 2007. I covered Shelley in the minors that season, and I was paying quite a bit of attention when he got to the big leagues, but there’s no chance I could have told you what number he was wearing. None.
Some baseball fans want to see superstars, and some prefer on-the-rise prospects. Some have legitimate opinions on Class-A utility infielders, and some had never heard of Melky Mesa until he failed to step on third base last season. Some watch games on TV, some listen on radio, and some follow along online while they engage in conversations on forums and blogs (we like those folks!). Some study the game’s history, some worry about the future, and some just like the hats.
Baseball makes room for all types of fans. It’s one of the great things about the game.
Another great thing about the game, at least in my position: Media guides. Thanks to my latest copy, here are some other obscure recent names who wore the numbers Vincent mentioned.
11 – Chris Widger, Morgan Ensberg
17 – Justin Christian, Kevin Cash, Chad Moeller
19 – Chris Basak, Kevin Thompson, Tyler Clippard
22 – Colin Curtis, Chad Huffman, Brian Gordon, Greg Golson
33 – Kelly Stinnett, Brian Bruney
• In an interview with MLB Network, Derek Jeter said he doesn’t expect to start running until spring training, but he still fully expects to be ready for Opening Day. “(The ankle) feels good now,” Jeter said. “Right where I feel it should be.”
• Brian Cashman creating a minor stir when he acknowledged on radio that Alex Rodriguez could miss the entire season if his recovery from hip surgery doesn’t go as expected. Also, the Daily News reported that a Rodriguez associate is being investigated in connection to performance enhancing drugs.
• The Yankees avoided arbitration with Dave Robertson, signing him to a one-year, $3.1-million deal. He was their last arbitration-eligible player without a contract.
• Joe Torre told reporters that there’s still a chance Andy Pettitte will pitch in the World Baseball Classic. According to Torre, Team USA wants Pettitte but the Yankees have expressed some discomfort in letting him play.
• The Yankees agreed to a minor league deal with left-handed first baseman Dan Johnson. He could have a chance to win regular at-bats as a designated hitter. The Yankees also signed right-handed outfielder Thomas Neal to a minor league deal with an invitation to big league camp.
• Speaking of minor leaguers coming to big league camp, Tyler Austin announced in an interview that he’s been invited to big league camp. The Yankees have yet to announce a full list of non-roster invitees.
• Yogi Berra and Joba Chamberlain were each honored at the annual B.A.T. dinner in New York.
• Several potential fits came off the board: Outfielder Justin Upton was traded to the Braves, catcher George Kottaras was claimed by the Royals, outfielder Jeff Baker signed a minor league deal with the Rangers, catcher Yorvit Torrealba signed a minor league deal with the Rockies, outfielder Scott Hairston signed a two-year deal with the Cubs and outfielder Delmon Young signed a one-year deal with the Phillies. Mark DeRosa, Ryan Raburn and Ben Francisco also signed last week.
Associated Press photos
Positive signs after A-Rod’s hip surgery • 01.18.13
He’s a hip specialist at a highly respected hospital where some of the most highly paid athletes in the world have trusted him with their careers. You can find his resume easily enough, and it’s legitimately overwhelming.
Basically, I’m willing to believe that Dr. Kelly can reshape a femur and reattach a labrum.
But when Alex Rodriguez went in for surgery this week, not everything was in Dr. Kelly’s hands, and as he explained earlier this month, the success or failure of Rodriguez’s recovery is going to hinge partially on the damage to his cartilage, which can’t be fixed or replaced.
Now there are two reports saying the same thing: Dr. Kelly did his job just fine, and Rodriguez’s knee just might live up to its part of the bargain as well. Both the New York Post and New York Daily News have quoted sources saying there was even less cartilage damage than Dr. Kelly anticipated.
“One thing is certain,” Dr. Kelly said before the surgery. “The less permanent damage you have to the cartilage, the greater the probability is for return to pre-injury level of play.”
So that’s a bit of good news to consider for the next six months while Rodriguez goes through the long rehab process.
Photo from Rodriguez’s Facebook page
One day after announcing the Alex Rodriguez injury, Brian Cashman was approached by various trade and free agent options.
“I’ve had a few of maybe the names I wouldn’t have thought of – lesser names that I wouldn’t have an interest in – volunteer their services for that position,” Cashmans said. “I’ve had some people suggest, ‘Hey, my guy who plays second base, he can swing over to play third.’ That type if stuff. I don’t have an interest in stuff like that. … I did have one irresponsible ask (in a trade suggestion), which I assume has everything to do with yesterday’s announcement. I’m no longer talking to that club.”
Although Cashman expects the market to continue its rapid development — “It seems like this is a market flush with money, the way it’s acting,” he said — but he plans to remain patient. Cashman said he believes it’s possible he could complete a move before these meetings end on Thursday morning, but he feels no need to force the issue.
“The preference is always to get your problems solved and get them fixed,” he said. “But the realistic side of that is that it’s going to take time and you have to solve it over time. If you don’t feel comfortable with the solution, you shouldn’t solve it until you feel comfortable. I’m prepared to drag this thing out.
“Hopefully everybody else is, too.”
• Cashman admitted to speaking with the agents for five different players: Kevin Youkilis, Eric Chavez, Raul Ibanez, Ichiro Suzuki and A.J. Pierzynski. Those were the only names specifically mentioned, and Cashman confirmed that he’s had discussions about each one.
• Despite talking to Pierzynski’s camp, Cashman was as firm as ever in his belief that the Yankees will have an in-house starting catcher next season. “I think our catching will come from within, personally, as we are right now,” Cashman said. “I’d be surprised if it didn’t.”
• Cashman on whether he needs to stick with one-year deals: “Optimally that’s the best way you’d like to go, but it might not be the way I have to go. It just depends on the player and the dollar amount.”
• Earlier today, Joe Girardi said the Yankees need a third base solution that’s capable of playing the position all year because of Alex Rodriguez’s uncertainty. Cashman disagreed. Sort of. “I was just looking to someone who can get there for three months at the very least,” Cashman said. “If it’s somebody that’s good enough to go the whole way, fine, but there’s not a lot of choices out there. I’m not going to limit it by looking at it that way. I understand what he’s talking about – you need to have the protection – but it’s a very limited sandbox to play in.”
• With Ichiro and Ibanez in the mix, Cashman indicated that he’s willing to use an all-left-handed regular outfield. “Beggars can’t be choosers, so to speak,” Cashman said. “If I’m in a situation where we have equal righty or lefty bats, you can gravitate one way or the other, but it doesn’t match up that way. … If we did (sign another left-handed outfielder), we’d need two outfield bats, one from the right side, one from the left side. If we wanted to put another left handed bat in, and it’s all three left handed outfielders, I would say focus on me adding another right-handed bat too, in the Andruw Jones category.”
• To be clear, in no way did I think Cashman was talking about bringing back Andruw Jones, he was just referring to a right-handed outfielder who strictly plays against lefties.
• Will Brett Gardner be in center field next year? “I see Gardner and Granderson both as center fielders,” Cashman said. “Currently Gardner is our left fielder and Granderson is our center fielder, and if we so choose to make a change, we’ll have no problem doing so. But that’s not something we’re talking about right now.”
• By the way, forgot to mention earlier that Girardi said Granderson had his vision checked and it’s fine. There was some speculation that maybe his vision caused last year’s second-half struggles. Apparently that’s not the case.
• Cashman on Chavez: “We know him very well and he had a hell of a year. He’s put himself in a very strong position, I think, in a marketplace that is thin at that position. That will run interference with our interest level, I would think, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t make something happen there. We’ll see. We’re engaged.”
Associated Press photo
Alex Rodriguez called the Yankees’ five-run third “one of the best offensive innings we’ve had all year.” There were three hits, three walks, one homer (the three-run shot by Russell Martin), one error, one wild pitch and two steals, plus a Nick Swisher sacrifice.
“We get small ball and Bronx ball going back and forth, it’s going to be a lot of fun for us,” Swisher said. “A little Swisher-ism.”
Eduardo Nunez may be an adventure in the field sometimes, but he does have his value, especially in the small-ball game.
“I think I can run a little bit,” Nunez said.
He led off the big rally by working out a full-count walk. The following inning, he led off again and reached on an error before stealing second and third and scoring on an A-Rod sac fly in the fourth. His speed gives the Yankees an ability to create runs that they had been lacking without Brett Gardner.
“He changes the game offensively for us,” Rodriguez said about Nunez. “He has a unique package where he has power, speed and he has enough recklessness where it’s really helpful for our lineup.”
Martin has finally perked up in this lineup. His average is up to all of .209 after a 10-game stretch in which he has batted .343 with three homers and 11 RBI.
“The laws of averages, they’re on my side right now,” Martin said. “I just feel like I’m seeing the ball well.”
Joe Girardi saw Derek Jeter, the DH for the fourth straight game, still limping a little on the bases thanks to the bone bruise in his left ankle.
“I think it’s still hurt,” Girardi said. “I don’t see him as the shortstop yet right now as we speak.”
Girardi said he will see how Jeter feels on Tuesday following the off day. Jeter is one hit away from his eighth 200-hit year and his first since 2009, impressive at age 37/38 this season.
Hiroki Kuroda got some run support, which hasn’t always been the story of his season. He gave up four runs and four hits over six, with three runs coming in the sixth, two on a bad-hop single by Evan Longoria. Kuroda is 14-10 with a 3.26 ERA.
“With that kind of run support, I wanted to go deep in the game … but I hit that bump in the sixth inning,” Kuroda said through an interpreter. “That’s the only regret I have.”
The Yankees have won two in a row, four of five, five of seven and seven of 11.
“We talked about playing better baseball,” Girardi said. “We starting to do that.”
“I think September is going to be the biggest blessing in disguise for us,” Alex Rodriguez said. “This is the kind of baseball we’re going to have to play to win in October. And the other thing is, these are playoff-caliber games. We’re stepping up to the occasion a little bit.”
Yankees postgame: What’s up with CC? • 09.15.12
The Yankees need their ace to pitch like an ace right now, but it isn’t happening. CC Sabathia’s velocity was a bit better, but he still turned over a lead for the fifth straight start and didn’t win for the fourth straight start. He has dropped three decisions in a row for the first time as a Yankee.
“It’s tough because we’re in a race and I’m struggling,” Sabathia said. “… It’s definitely been frustrating.”
This time, he gave up four runs and six hits over 6 2/3 and fell to 13-6. David Price just outpitched him in Tampa Bay’s 6-4 victory.
Sabathia says his arm feels good. But the game got away from him when his command departed in the fifth. His 1-0 lead turned into a 3-2 deficit.
“Just not making pitches,” Sabathia said.
The Yankees were predictably supportive.
“I still believe in CC,” Joe Girardi said. “He’s done so many special things. I know his heart.”
“You definitely want CC on the mound,” Curtis Granderson said. “CC is one of the best guys out there.”
“CC pitched well,” Derek Jeter said. “I’m sure he didn’t pitch as good as he would’ve liked to, but he still kept us in the game.”
Sabathia knows he’s better than this. He thinks he may be looking to strike people out too much.
“Today should’ve been a day when I went out and dominated,” Sabathia said.
He’s happy that Ivan Nova will be back later today and that Andy Pettitte will return to start on Tuesday.
“Hopefully they can help us out, because I haven’t been,” Sabathia said.
Meanwhile, it was another milestone night for both Jeter and Alex Rodriguez.
Jeter passed Willie Mays and took sole possession of 10th on the all-time hits lists. The Captain had two hits, giving him 3,285. He said passing Mays was “pretty special.”
A-Rod passed Lou Gehrig on the all-time list for runs scored thanks to his homer. Rodriguez now has sole possession of ninth with 1,889. He also tied Zack Wheat for 37th on the all-time hits list at 2,884. Rodriguez is batting .279 with three homers and eight RBI in 11 games since coming off the DL. He’s now 13 homers behind Mays for fourth on the homers list after belting No. 647.
The Yankees are now 6-9 in their last 15 games. They are 3 for 40 with runners in scoring position over the last four games, leaving 36 on base. They have blown leads in six of their last seven defeats and 10 of their last 14 defeats. Lot of negatives here. But there are still 18 games to go.
Yankees pregame: Waiting on Tex and a lineup • 08.03.12
Brian Heyman here for Chad today. No Yankees lineup yet. Joe Girardi was waiting for an update on the state of Mark Teixeira’s left wrist from a doctor and whether he could take batting practice. And Teixeira is indeed giving batting practice a try right now at a little before 5.
Tonight’s starter is CC Sabathia, and he has owned the Mariners, winning seven straight starts with a 0.88 ERA dating to 2009. But Sabathia wasn’t so great his last time out, allowing six runs and eight hits in six innings against the Red Sox. His weight gain was something that came up after he was allowing a lot of hits the final two months of last season and had a 6.23 ERA vs. Detroit in the ALDS. But his fitness is a non-factor right now, according to Girardi.
“His conditioning is great,” Girardi said. “I’m very pleased with where he’s at there. And I’ve never seen it as a huge issue for me. This is a guy who’s won 60 games in three years. It’s pretty hard to complain. But obviously you worry about long-term health and long-term health of a pitcher’s body. But that has not been an issue.
“This guy works hard. He’s a true professional. He’s prepared every time he goes out there. For me, it’s just like any other pitcher you have. If he locates, he’s going to pitch well.”
Joba Chamberlain struggled in his first Yankees outing of the season, allowing two runs and four hits in 1 2/3 innings Wednesday against the Orioles. He had been away from major-league mounds for 14 months or so.
“I think it could take a little for him to get on track and be what we expect him to be because he’s been out so long,” Girardi said. “Just like any starter or reliever starting a season, or position player, you’re not sure how they’re going to start, if they’re going to have a great start or if they’re going to have a slow start. So I think you’re going to have to have some patience.”
A-Rod is here. “Just working out,” Girardi said, “doing as much as he can basically not using the one hand, conditioning, trying to work his legs. But that’s about it. He’ll throw and do things like that. But as far as using his left hand, he can’t do much there.”
Ichiro Suzuki spoke to some of his former teammates on the field, but he indicated his emotions aren’t as high facing them as they were in Seattle right after the trade went down.
Yankees pregame: Ichiro wears pinstripes • 07.27.12
Hello there, Brian Heyman here at Yankee Stadium for Chad, ready to watch the first-place Yankees and the last-place Red Sox. Takes a little of the fun out of it. But Ichiro must be excited, slipping on the pinstripes for his home debut. He figures to be greeted warmly. But he knows he’s going to have to hit to keep the fans’ good feelings coming his way.
Or as he put it: “Obviously I need to do well … so they’ll be on my side.”
Ichiro admitted he had actually dressed in Yankees clothing prior to Monday’s trade.
“I was in Japan till 2000,” he said. “I was a big fan of MLB. I had a lot of jerseys. I had a Yankee uniform. It’s different. But I feel like I wore it before because I wore it in Japan.”
While he isn’t the hitter he used to be — now batting .261 — there’s a school of thought that he’s going to step up his game again because he’s with a team trying to nail down a division title. Ichiro said he was always motivated in Seattle despite the circumstances. But Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine, who had seen Ichiro as a manager in Japan and once wanted the Mets to go after Ichiro when Valentine was managing them, sees more coming from Ichiro now.
“I think he’s a special person and a special baseball player, and now he’s in a special situation,” Valentine said.
Nick Swisher still isn’t back in the lineup, so Ichiro is still playing right. The Yankees will see how Swisher, who has had that strained hip flexor, feels tomorrow.
“We don’t want to have a setback,” Joe Girardi said. “I don’t think we’re being overly cautious. He’s not quite ready.”
Joba Chamberlain threw here today and is scheduled make his seventh rehab appearance Sunday, this time at Double-A Trenton.
Girardi said Alex Rodriguez will have his broken left hand x-rayed again next week. Girardi wouldn’t put a timetable on A-Rod’s return, although the going guess has been 6 to 8 weeks.
Yankees pregame: Old-Timers’ Day • 07.01.12
Brian Heyman here for Chad again today. The Yankees from glory days and not-so-glory days are here, too, for Old-Timers’ Day.
There were loud ovations during the ceremony, especially for the usual fan favorites as they trotted out onto the broiling field, Bernie Williams, Paul O’Neill, Tino Martinez and Joe Torre. There were the usual loud cheers for the two Hall of Famers who rode in together in the back seat of a cart from center field to behind home plate, 87-year-old Yogi Berra and 83-year-old Whitey Ford. They stayed in the cart and waved. The Old-Timers’ Game is in progress.
“The interesting thing is you get a chance to see a lot of your teammates that you played with and had success,” Joe Girardi said. “And then you always get a chance to see the guys who came before us and had a ton of success. I absolutely love it. … I always like seeing guys that I played with and busting their chops about being Old-Timers. That’s enjoyable to me.”
Girardi reflected about his success here.
“I’ve always thought about my World Series rings as for my kids,” Girardi said. “I made a joke with my wife one day (after) we won the World Series in 1996 and ’98 and we were playing in the playoffs in 1999. I said, ‘That will determine if we have another child or not.’ Sure enough we did. But I’ve got to tell you, I don’t plan on having a fourth one. As a manager, it doesn’t count. But I think the final game in 1996, the first time you have a chance to realize that dream is probably my fondest memory.”
Torre talked about Jeter’s shot at reaching 4,000 hits, seeing it as a long shot. The Captain is at 3,185.
“When people start talking about 4,000, it’s probably out of reach,” Torre said. “But I never question anything this kid has set his mind to, so we’ll see. He has a long way to go. This game is not easy to play on an everyday basis … I don’t think he’s going to hang around for a personal record unless he’s able to contribute to his team doing well.”
A-Rod is not in the lineup today, but it’s just a day off.
“We’re going to go to three days on turf (at Tampa Bay), and then we’re going to have a day off and we have a split doubleheader (in Boston) on Saturday,” Girardi said. “So I’m doing what I can to keep him fresh and trying to be cognizant of the other guys as well.”
Girardi hopes that CC Sabathia will play catch this week with the Yankees on the road.
A-Rod and LeBron • 06.23.12
Alex Rodriguez sounded happy for LeBron James finally winning his championship with the Miami Heat.
In fact, A-Rod saw a parallel to when he finally won a championship with the Yankees in 2009, thinking it changed the perception of him.
That was the year he finally had a big postseason, batting .455 with two homers and six RBI in the ALDS against the Twins, then .429 with three homers and six RBI in the ALCS against the Angels, then .250 with three doubles, a homer and six RBI in the World Series against the Phillies.
“Being the villain is never fun,” Rodriguez said. “It’s tiring. I think for me everything changed in 2009. I had a chance to really just enjoy the game again. Sometimes when you’re struggling, you’ve still got love this great game.
“It doesn’t mean I’m going to be cast in the lead role in every Tom Hanks movie. But I think I’ve graduated from being the monster in every film.”