Pinch hitting: Neil Van Dyke • 01.21.15
Today’s Pinch Hitter was born in New York City. Although Neil Van Dyke was the second baseman and captain of his high school baseball team — wearing No. 20 in honor of Horace Clarke — he was cut during tryouts for his college freshman team. Neil wrote that he likes to blame the end of his baseball career on having to hit against classmate Jim Beattie during tryouts (as you might know, Beattie went on to have a nine-year career in the big leagues).
Neil now lives in Red Sox country in Vermont. He works in public safety, and for his post, Neil looked at the Yankees roster to find one thing that’s clearly missing.
In 1961, I was 7 years old growing up in New York City and just starting to follow Major League Baseball. I didn’t really understand or appreciate the frenzy that accompanied the reporting of the American League home run race that year, nor did I truly suffer the agonizing disappointment of Game 7 of the World Series.
The Yankees were the only game in town, so I latched onto them as a fan, but it wasn’t until 1962 that I attended any games at the Stadium including my first (and only) World Series contest. I was hooked.
My career as a Yankee fan started with the end of the Mantle/Berra/Ford era.
With Derek Jeter’s retirement this year it occurred to me that 2015 will be the first Yankees team in the 50-plus years that I have cheered for them that they will not have what I would consider to be an “iconic” Yankee on their roster. In fact, with the “before my time” succession of Ruth, Gehrig and DiMaggio leading up to Berra and Mantle, one could say it has been closer to 95 years since the Yankees were without an icon!
I won’t come up with a scientific definition of what the qualifications for such a player entails, but they would certainly have played most or all of their career for the Yanks, never been a star for another team, likely have come up through the farm system (if not, then joined the organization early in their career), were a cornerstone of the team, and will be forever and unquestionably linked with the Yankees.
These iconic players don’t have to be superstars – a player like Roy White being just one example. At the end of the day, I think Yankees fans know an iconic Yankee when they see one.
Bobby Murcer, yes.
Ricky Henderson, no.
Through the years, Mantle and company transitioned to Stottlemyre, Murcer, White, Munson, Randolph, Guidry, Mattingly, Williams, and you know the rest. Every season would have at least one of these Yankee touchstones on the squad.
Nobody on the current roster has this pedigree, and it just feels a bit strange and slightly unsettling. Who knows, maybe 10 years from now with the perspective of hindsight, this will all seem irrelevant as all-time Yankees greats Brett Gardner and Dellin Betances turn out to be mainstays who go on to long, successful Yankees careers. Or maybe not. Maybe it will be remembered as the beginning of a different type of Yankees team, one on which players come and go with far greater frequency.
If that’s the case, I for one will miss my Yankees icons – win or lose.
Associated Press photo
Here’s the official announcement from the Yankees and the good people who run the Munson awards:
New York, January 8 — The 35th Annual Thurman Munson Awards, which remember the late, great Yankees captain, will be presented at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City on Tuesday night, February 3, 2015, and the honorees announced today are: New York Yankees four-time World Champion center fielder Bernie Williams, Yankees All-Star rookie relief pitcher Dellin Betances, New York Mets 1986 World Champion center fielder Mookie Wilson, Olympic Gold Medal-winning ice dancers Meryl Davis and Charlie White; and football Giants Super Bowl champion punter Steve Weatherford. The AHRC New York City Foundation, which assists children and adults with disabilities, benefits from the gala.
Joel S. Isaacson, Founder and CEO of Joel Isaacson & Co., will receive the “Business & Philanthropic Leadership Award.”
Diana Munson, Thurman’s widow, will attend her 35th consecutive benefit, having been involved since its inception. The Thurman Munson Awards Dinner has raised more than $13 million for programs that serve New York City children and adults who have intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Michael Kay, the “Voice of the Yankees” on YES Network and ESPN Radio 98.7 FM host, will serve as Master of Ceremonies.
For tickets and information on the Munson Awards Dinner call 212-249-6188 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Tickets may be purchased on line at www.ahrcNYCfoundation.org/events.
The Thurman Munson Awards are presented for success on the field of play and philanthropic works off the field.
Williams, patrolling center field, was an integral member of the Yankees World Series Championship teams in 1996, ’98, ’99 and 2000, and a five-time All-Star during his 16 year career in pinstripes. Betances became a rookie All-Star last season, confounding hitters with his prolific fastball. Wilson, a member of the Mets Hall of Famer, was a key player on the Mets 1986 World Series championship team; Davis and White, America’s darlings, captured Olympic gold with a dazzling ice-dancing performance for the ages at the 2014 games in Sochi; Weatherford was a member of the Giants Super Bowl championship team in 2012, and also made a post season appearance with the Jets.
The AHRC New York City Foundation is a not-for-profit organization that supports programs enabling children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities to lead richer, more productive lives, including programs of AHRC New York City. AHRC New York City is one of the largest organizations of its kind, serving 15,000 children and adults who have intellectual and developmental disabilities, including autism, cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injuries and other disabilities.
Associated Press photo
Pretty sure I mention this every year, and it’s time to put it on your radar again.
This Saturday, November 15, Hillside Food Outreach is holding its 13th Annual “Speak out against Hunger” Gala. As he does every year, former Yankees center fielder Bernie Williams will host the event, and this year his special guests will be Hall of Famer Joe Torre and musical guest Rick Derringer (the guy who wrote Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo).
As a bonus, our good friend Sweeny Murti will moderate a Q&A with Williams and Torre, and Bernie’s going to play some of his own music.
Williams has been involved for years with Hillside Food Outreach, which works to deliver food to housebound people living at or below the poverty level in Putnam and Westchester Counties in New York, as well as in western Connecticut. Rock solid cause and a pretty cool event.
Read more about it and purchase tickets at www.hillsidefoodoutreach.org.
Photo of last year’s Gala from Bernie’s website
It’s too early to make too much of it, but rotation results have been encouraging this spring, and Brian Cashman said it’s entirely possible the Yankees have all the pieces of their Opening Day rotation already in camp. Cashman said he wouldn’t rule out adding a pitcher before the end of March, but right now an addition doesn’t seem likely.
“I’m not encouraged (by the market),” Cashman said. “I’m only saying there’s a chance because who knows what’s going to happen between now and then? There’s nothing hot. I’ve got nothing going on. Zero. That type of activity doesn’t usually take place right now.”
Colon had a rocky second inning, but that came after he struck out the side in the first inning and before he pitched a scoreless third and fourth. All told, Colon allowed two runs through four innings, striking out seven and walking none.
“I’ve been a little bit more surprised about Colon than (Freddy) Garcia,” Joe Girardi said. “Freddy, I saw Freddy pitch last year so I had a pretty good idea of what he was going to do. Bartolo, the movement on his fastball surprised me a little bit. I’m not surprised with his command and I’m not surprised with the changeup. The breaking ball is a little bit better than it was in the past.”
If the situation changes, could the trade market heat up at the end of March?
“Usually with bad contract guys, out of option guys, that type of stuff,” Cashman said.
• If the Yankees don’t add a starter, they probably won’t add anyone this spring. The lineup is set, the bullpen is deep and Cashman said he’s happy with the bench options. “I don’t think we have to go outside camp unless we have injuries looking for bench help,” he said. “We have the potential of a real good bench going forward to open the season.”
• Colon started his outing by striking out the side in the first inning. “Usually I try to pace myself, but today I went hard right from the very beginning,” he said. “Today I just felt very strong.” Colon allowed two runs in the second inning, but Girardi was impressed that the outing didn’t snowball and Colon pitched a scoreless third and fourth. “You want to see a guy be able to shut it down and get back to making pitches,” Girardi said.
• Rafael Soriano pitched a scoreless inning in his spring debut. Girardi said this could be the best bullpen since he came to New York. “Our bullpen in 2009, at the end, was special,” Girardi said. “With Hughesy down there and Marte back and Robertson, the strides that he made. Joba. Ace. That was pretty good. I think this bullpen has a chance to be better.”
• Girardi was impressed by Soriano’s debut. “I didn’t really expect a whole lot different than that,” Girardi said.
• Eduardo Nunez played left field tonight and caught the only ball hit to him. “It was weird, but good,” Nunez said. The Yankees want Nunez and Ramiro Pena to get a little bit of outfield time this spring, preparing themselves to play there in a pinch this season.
• Nunez also had another hit, raising his spring average to .375. He also got his fifth stolen base.
• Russell Martin and Andruw Jones each hit their first Yankees home runs tonight. The Yankees started seven players likely to make the Opening Day roster, and all seven had a hit. The Yankees won 4-2.
• Manny Banuelos made his third scoreless appearance of the spring. Nice work by Andrew Marchand on this piece about Mariano Rivera’s impressions of the young lefty. Safe to say, the Yankees closer is impressed. Girardi said before the game he thought Banuelos would go three innings, but the Yankees changed their mind and gave him two innings. Banuelos would have pitched three innings if Colon had lasted just three innings, Girardi said.
• Gustavo Molina had a root canal today.
• There’s a chance of rain tomorrow. If that happens, Girardi said CC Sabathia will probably throw a simulated game in the indoor cages. If not, Sabathia will matchup against Roy Halladay in Clearwater.
• Speaking of Clearwater, Ronnie Belliard is scheduled to make the trip. He could get in his first game tomorrow.
• Just a random observation: I hadn’t talked to Melky Mesa much this spring, but talked to him a little bit today. The guy’s a ball of energy, laughing and smiling, even when he’s in the game. He’s definitely one of those “I just love to play the game” kind of guys.
• After today’s paintball outing, someone asked Girardi if he’s still hoping to have a players outing in spring training. “I don’t know,” Girardi said. “We’ll see. A lot of times during the beginning of the season we’ll watch the Final Four together as a team. This was a year that was a little bit different (in spring training). I’ve had some ideas in my mind about things that I could do, but it seems like time gets short sometimes.”
• The Yankees finally posted tomorrow’s travel roster for Clearwater, and it includes one regular infielder — Robinson Cano — traveling with the regular outfielders. It also includes every healthy catcher, including Jorge Posada.
Pitchers who will be making the trip: Brian Anderson, Robert Fish, Warner Madrigal, David Phelps, Ryan Pope, Mark Prior, Dave Robertson, CC Sabathia, Romulo Sanchez, Andy Sisco, Daniel Turpen and Eric Wordekemper.
Players who will not be making the trip: Colin Curtis, Greg Golson, Andruw Jones, Eric Chavez, Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez and Francisco Cervelli.
Associated Press photos of Colon, Bernie Williams and Tino Martinez. Williams threw out the first pitch, Martinez is in camp as a guest instructor.
One more Andy Pettitte post • 02.05.11
As you probably suspect, there are plenty of leftover notes from yesterday’s Andy Pettitte press conference. Of course, one bit that’s been making the rounds is Pettitte’s comment about leaving the door open for a possible — but unlikely — return in 2012.
“I don’t know what I’m going to feel like two months from now, three months from now,” he said during the televised portion of the press conference.
During a separate interview session with the print media, Pettitte addressed the same issue.
“You asked me that, and maybe I talked too much, but I just start thinking,” he said. “If my stomach was just churning once Opening Day started, and I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh, I have made a huge mistake,’ and I felt like that the whole season, I cant’ say that I wouldn’t say that I wouldn’t consider to maybe do it again. But I can tell you right now that I’d be embarrassed because of what I’ve done right now. You know what I’m saying? Again, maybe I’m talking too much. I’m just telling you, I’m giving you an honest answer. And I might be so embarrassed that I wouldn’t ever play again.
“But I don’t think that’s going to happen because I’ve felt this way for so long deep down, and also because I’ve got such a good peace about it. I know that I’m going to be good with it, but I can definitely tell you for sure that I’m not going to play this year. I’m sold out on that, 100 percent.”
If you’re interested, here’s the audio from Pettitte session with the writers. You can probably tell that most of the writers have an easy, familiar relationship with him.
• Pettitte said he has no interest in becoming a manager or pitching coach. “No, I don’t think so,” he said. “Too much time. I know how much time it takes. It’s just not anything right now that I can tell you that I would have any desire to do at all.”
• Pettitte would, however, like to be around the team (maybe as something like a spring training instructor) when his kids are older. “When things slow down, I would definitely imagine,” he said. “I have no idea, but right now I can tell you I would imagine I would.”
• Brian Cashman said the Freddy Garcia signing has been in the works for weeks and was not a reaction to Pettitte. “I talked to (agent) Peter Greenberg throughout the winter saying I’d have an interest in Freddy as a non-roster invite,” Cashman said. “It took until Monday to get a non-roster invite agreement banged out as they searched to see what their options were.”
• Joe Girardi said the Yankees rookie starter could go a long way toward solidifying the rotation. “Obviously, you need a guy like (Ivan) Nova to develop,” Girardi said. “It’s important that he develops and continues to get better, like a Phil Hughes would. If he doesn’t, we’ll have to address that situation. It’s not as etched in stone as it would have been if Andy Pettitte were here. But I believe there’s enough talent in that room to get it done.”
• Although it look similar, Girardi said this rotation doesn’t feel similar to the 2008 group. “Does it feel the same? No, because I don’t really look at it as expecting a lot from two rookies,” Girardi said. “We’re looking at one rookie to step up. I think our bullpen is stronger than it was back then, which I think makes a difference. I think we have a chance to have a dynamite bullpen and I think that changes the complexion of the rotation.”
• Girardi on the personality shift without Pettitte: “Guys will step up. The thing is, it’s the personality that you can’t replace. No one ever replaced Paul O’Neill’s personality, no one ever replaced Bernie’s personality, no one every replaced Tino’s personality. But you’ll still have 25 personalities in there and it will still be a good clubhouse. It’s just going to be a little bit different now.”
• Not sure who I was talking to at the time, but I missed the Bernie Williams group session. He said he might make his retirement official at some point this year.
Associated Press photos
Healthy Prior ready to earn his keep • 01.05.11
Coming into spring training on a minor league deal, Mark Prior says he doesn’t expect a big league job to be handed to him. But if he’s healthy, Prior believes he can earn a spot in the Yankees bullpen.
“I still have late life (on the fastball),” Prior told MLB.com. “I still have a good breaking ball — when it’s sharp, it’s got good tilt.”
Prior hasn’t pitched in the big leagues since 2006, but he said a stint in independent ball let him know he still wanted to play.
“One of the things that happened a long time ago is I stopped asking the question, ‘Why?’” Prior said. “The answer doesn’t really matter. I don’t need to know why I’m getting hurt; I just need to know how to get healthy, and that was the answer I was searching for.”
Some other links and notes from the day.
• Jon Heyman adds Kevin Millwood to the list of pitchers the Yankees might consider for the rotation. He goes on a list with Jeremy Bonderman, Jeff Francis and Freddy Garcia, who we’ve previously heard connected to the Yankees to some extent.
• Does this sound familiar? The Reds are going to keep Aroldis Chapman in the bullpen for now, but they still see him as a starter long term. And so it begins.
• Rebecca Glass makes the case that Bernie Williams’ first year on the Hall of Fame ballot might actually be his best chance for induction.
• Nice story from Tyler Kepner, who asks Hall of Fame voters not to speculate about steroid use, especially in the case of Jeff Bagwell.
Bernie says Derek isn’t going anywhere • 11.13.10
Bernie Williams played with the jazz band at William Paterson University last night and before taking the stage he took a few questions.
Does he think Derek Jeter or Mariano Rivera could ever leave the Yankees?
“The laws of nature say there’s got to be a point that will have to move on,” Williams said, according to Newsday, “but hopefully not next year.”
Like most Yankees fans (and everyone else in the universe), Williams thinks Jeter will ultimately sign a new deal with the only team he’s ever known.
“I don’t think he wants to go anywhere,” Williams said. “He’s one of the pillars of the team, definitely one of the great parts. . . . He means so much to the city. Hopefully, they’ll come down to a decision and work it out.”
Two other tidbits about Williams:
1. He has never officially retired, though he says in the same article that it “might be coming this year.”
2. He and I once spent 20 minutes talking about the terrific food at Ajili Mojili, a restaurant in San Juan that he recommend to me before I took a vacation in Puerto Rico and was absolutely fantastic. If you are ever in San Juan, I recommend checking it out.
* That’s an AP shot of Bernie playing a concert at the Nokia Theater last year.
The only Yankee still playing • 10.23.10
Let there be no doubt, Bernie Williams was cheering for the Yankees last night, but the team’s elimination did clear up a scheduling conflict for Bernie and his band. Here’s part of a press release about his charity concert tonight in Suffern.
Bernie Williams and his All-Star band were booked to play a concert on Saturday Oct 23 at the historic Lafayette Theater in Suffern, NY, months before the Yankees clinched a post-season berth or the playoff schedule was set. The show was going to go on whether the Yankees were playing or not, and plans were made to give updates after very song of Bernie’s two-hour set should the game be played.
The entire nine-man band are all die-hard Yankee fans, so everyone was rooting for a Game 7, even if it meant many would-be concert goers would feel compelled to stay home and watch on TV. We were going to be monitoring the game, and like previous concerts, we know fans with Blackberrys and iPhones would be shouting out the play by play.
Bernie understood how important this game was, and we were going to go with the flow. Now, we hope Yankee fans, disappointed at ALCS loss, will come to Suffern for a wonderful night of music, as Bernie shares his songs and stories of his life in baseball and music.
A portion of the proceeds from the concert will benefit the foundations and scholarship funds created by the families of two Suffern High School baseball players who were tragically killed in a car accident this year. Williams reached out to the team and families soon after the accident, and he will be raising additional funds with a special autographed photo, limited to 51 copies, with all proceeds from the picture going to both families’ foundations.
An Evening with Bernie Williams
Tonight, Saturday October 23
The Lafayette Theater, 97 Lafayette Ave, Suffern, NY
For tickets: www.ArtsRock.org or call 866-811-4111
5:00 p.m. Gates open to the public
5:30-6:30 p.m. Yankees batting practice
6:30-7:20 p.m. Rangers batting practice
7:53 p.m. Presentation of Colors: United States Marines 6th Motor Transport Battalion Color Guard
7:54 p.m. National Anthem: Keni Thomas
7:58 p.m. Ceremonial first pitch: Bernie Williams
8:02 p.m. Umpires and Managers to home plate
8:05 p.m. Yankees take the field
8:07 p.m. First pitch
* Patrick Wilson will perform God Bless America during the seventh-inning stretch.
A few notes on a slow night • 07.15.10
There are only seven games on the MLB schedule tonight which, you know, makes perfect sense since most players haven’t had a day off in a long time.
Either way, the Yankees are back at it tomorrow against the Rays and, for those who have asked, the YES Network WILL broadcast the pre-game ceremony and video tribute to George Steinbrenner, which the team says should get started around 6:45 p.m. The game itself will be on My9. A pre-game video tribute to Bob Sheppard is planned for Saturday, and there will also be a “special performance” recognizing Sheppard during the 7th-inning stretch, the team said.
Two other notes:
• All nine Nederlander theaters on Broadway will dim their lights for one minute tonight in honor of The Boss. Very cool and classy.
• Bernie Williams released a statement about George Steinbrenner through the team. Bernie has been out of the country performing, but wanted to offer his thoughts and condolences. Here is what he said:
“I am deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Mr. Steinbrenner today. It was a privilege to know and work for him, and my heart goes out to the entire Steinbrenner family.
“I will forever be grateful to Mr Steinbrenner for allowing me to become part of the Yankee organization, and then stay a Yankee for my entire career. He will go down as one of the greatest owners in the history of baseball, and all of sports. No one wanted to win more than Mr. Steinbrenner, and he did whatever it took to put his team in the best position to win. From there, it was up to all of us in the Yankee organization, from the front office, to the grounds crew, to the clubhouse assistants, to all of us players and staff, to do our jobs, and perform to the best of our ability.
“Year in and year out, inspired by his commitment to excellence, I always knew I had to be at the very top of my game to meet the high expectations he set. He made me a better baseball player – and for that, I will be forever grateful to him. He will be missed, and never forgotten”