It’s not even Thanksgiving, and already four of the top free agent hitters are off the market.
Victor Martinez re-signed with Detroit, Russell Martin landed in Toronto, Hanley Ramirez signed with Boston, and Pablo Sandoval is going somewhere. Nothing official on Sandoval’s destination — some reports say Boston, others suggest it’s not a done deal — but his agent told Alex Speier that a decision will come today, which means Sandoval’s effectively off the market, whatever the destination.
What does it mean for the Yankees?
First, they never seemed to be in on any of these hitters. They don’t have space for a pure designated hitter, they signed their catcher last winter, and both Ramirez and Sandoval were the kind of high-risk, high-dollar deals that the Yankees would like to avoid (Ramirez in particular seems like a risky investment, despite his obvious talent).
What this really does for the Yankees is open the door for the next tier of free agents, the ones that seemed more likely for the Yankees in the first place. Three things:
1. Chase Headley is now the top third baseman on the market, and the Yankees have done little to hide their interest in re-signing him. For a while it seemed Boston might be the most significant competition for Headley, now it might be San Francisco. Either way, there’s now very little keeping Headley from determining his true market value and figuring out all of his options.
2. Whether Ramirez was a true shortstop is now a moot point. He’s off the market, and the group of free agent shortstops begin with Asdrubal Cabrera (assuming you trust his defense), Jed Lowrie (who also might be the best second baseman on the market), and Stephen Drew (who’s probably the best defensive option out there). The Yankees never seemed focused on Ramirez, but other free agents might have been waiting for him to set the “shortstop” market.
3. The pitching market really hasn’t moved. The biggest free agents on the market are starting pitchers, and there are big names emerging as trade candidates as well (Jordan Zimmerman, Cole Hamels, we already saw Shelby Miller traded). The Yankees have made it clear that they want to add at least one starting pitcher this winter, and they’d clearly like to add a reliever now that Dave Robertson is a free agent — relievers seem valuable this offseason — but while hitters have come off the board quickly, pitchers are taking their time.
Associated Press photo
Just a few late afternoon notes on this first day of the offseason:
• A source said this morning that the Yankees have been granted a fourth option year for outfielder Eury Perez, the 24-year-old claimed off waivers from the Nationals at the end of September. Perez has speed and pretty good minor league numbers, and he could be a right-handed fourth outfielder candidate next season. The fact the Yankees can send him to the minors, though, makes it a little easier to keep him on the 40-man roster.
• Along those same lines, I was told that “it does not appear” that Austin Romine will qualify for a fourth option year. That means he’ll be out of options next season. He’ll either have to make the big league team or face the uncertainty of waivers (assuming the Yankees don’t make a move with him this winter).
• Here’s an interesting idea: George King reports a belief that the Yankees are interested in talking to Raul Ibanez about becoming their hitting coach. It’s an interesting idea mostly because Ibanez really does carry himself like he’s a coach already. He communicates well, and the Royals basically treated him as a coach through the playoffs. Ibanez has no coaching experience, and there’s no telling whether he’d even want the job, but it’s an interesting possibility.
• While the Yankees will surely be in the market for some third base help this offseason, they could face some competition from their rivals in Boston. Jon Heyman reports that the Red Sox are interested in both Pablo Sandoval and Chase Headley as alternatives to Will Middlebrooks. This surely comes as little surprise, but it further supports the idea that signing Headley is going to require basically a full-time job and a significant contract. He’s not likely to rejoin the Yankees strictly as a backup or alternative to Alex Rodriguez. Most likely, bringing Headley back basically means giving him the third base job.
• The Baseball Hall of Fame announced the 10-person ballot being considered on the Golden Era ballot this winter. The group will be reviewed and voted upon at the Winter Meetings on December 8. Here are the candidates: Dick Allen, Ken Boyer, Gil Hodges, Bob Howsam, Jim Kaat, Minnie Minoso, Tony Oliva, Billy Pierce, Luis Tiant and Maury Wills.
Associated Press photo
For your consideration: Chase Headley • 10.15.14
Here’s what Brian Cashman said on the day the Yankees traded for Chase Headley:
“Next year is next year. Right now I just kind of frame is as what it is. He’s got an expiring contract that runs through the end of the year. It’s a rental in terms of the acquisition cost, and that’s how we approached it. We’ve taken on some money. We got some money to offset some of the remaining balance of his contract, and they’ve got some players that they can hold onto as they move forward and try to support their future. I can’t predict 2015 and what our needs will or won’t be. That’s not what this is all about. We’re all really focused on the remaining push in 2014 and trying to push through with what we’ve got.”
Truth be told, I can’t imagine that Cashman has any better idea today what his third base needs will or won’t be next season. Alex Rodriguez is still a total wild card, working out in California with no proof of how well he can play baseball in 2015 and beyond. What Cashman does have, though, is a better sense of what Headley is capable of doing and how well he’s able to handle the New York market.
During his two-plus months with the Yankees, Headley showed himself to be an awfully good fielder, and while he’s certainly not a true power hitter, he came through in big situations and got on base at an impressive rate. He’s most certainly a useful player, and he seems to have found a way to manage the lower-back issue that bothered him in San Diego.
“I feel like I played like me,” Headley said. “Even the month or so before I got traded, I felt like I started play like me, as a player. I feel like (if) I play like me, that’s a good player, and that’s going to be attractive to clubs. I’m glad that I was able to finish out the way that I did, and hopefully things will work out good.”
Going forward, is Headley still a strong fit for the Yankees?
The third base situation is well understood. Best-case scenario is that Rodriguez’s year off has left him healthy and strong, physically able to play third base regularly while contributing to the middle of the order. Worst-case scenario is that a year off, coupled with the recent injuries, has left Rodriguez unable to play the field and unable to be much of a run producer. The Yankees aren’t likely to know which is closer to the truth until spring training, and even then health and durability concerns must linger.
Signing Headley would give the Yankees a quality backup plan at third base. But Headley’s also in position to be paid like an everyday player, so it’s more likely he would lock the Yankees into a plan to use Rodriguez regularly at designated hitter while trusting Carlos Beltran to regularly handle right field. Headley is not the only player who could play that role — Pablo Sandoval is a free agent this winter as are any number of utility types — but Headley brings a comfortable blend of familiarity and experience. He was a useful rental, which makes him a more attractive target.
“I don’t know if they’re going to be interested,” Headley said. “They do have a player under contract. We’ll kinda see how that shakes out. If they do show interest, then there would be mutual interest. But that would be something we’d want to talk about, and see what the role would look like, coming into (next season). Not something that I’d be scared of, but something I’d like to have clarity on, and I’m sure the organization would as well.”
Associated Press photos
State of the organization: Third base • 10.09.14
Well, we were going to get here eventually. Might as well deal with it on a random Thursday in early October. The state of the Yankees organization at third base is a strange mix of embarrassing uncertainty in the big leagues and optimistic potential in the minors. The Yankees have a first-round pick waiting in the wings to replace a 10-year contract that stands out as one of the worst in all of sports.
Signed through 2017
Nope, you didn’t read that wrong. Rodriguez turns 40 in July, he’s hardly played in the past two years, and he’s signed for three more seasons. That’s the lingering mess of a 2008 contract that’s been nothing but trouble. Amazingly, Rodriguez’s previous record contract had actually been a fairly good one. In 2007 he won his third MVP award in five seasons. He was paid a boatload of money, but he was as productive as anyone this side of Barry Bonds. Then he opted out, negotiated a new deal, and things went downhill quickly. From a .965 OPS in 2008 to a .771 OPS in an injury-shortened 2013, Rodriguez’s production has declined each year of his current deal. And last year he was suspended for a full season because of his Biogensis ties (you probably heard about that). Now the Yankees say they’re expecting Rodriguez to play third base again next season, but there’s obviously a solid chance someone else has that job pretty soon.
On the verge
No sense pretending there’s someone in the Yankees system who’s truly “on the verge” of taking over the third-base job. Jose Pirela has played third base in the past, but he didn’t play a single inning at the position this year. Rob Segedin is the system’s most advanced third base prospect, but he’s had injury problems and hit just .143 in limited Triple-A at-bats this year. Zelous Wheeler is a third baseman by trade, but he’s also a DFA candidate. Adonis Garcia and Tyler Austin have some third base experience, but they’re primarily corner outfielders. Instead, the most ready alternatives are either Martin Prado (assuming either Pirela or Rob Refsnyder is ready to play second base) or a free agent, and the most notable free agent is Headley, who made a strong impression during his two-plus months with the Yankees. Given the uncertainty of Rodriguez and the injuries to Mark Teixeira, the Yankees surely need someone capable of playing the infield corners. If it’s not Headley, it’s got to be someone. Prado could do it, but that’s going to require someone else who can play second.
In two of the past four drafts, the Yankees took a third baseman with their top pick. They took Dante Bichette Jr. out of high school back in 2011. Two years later, they took Jagielo out of Notre Dame. Despite a bounce-back season from Bichette, it still seems that Jagielo has to be considered the system’s top third-base prospect. He struck out a lot this season — 93 times in 85 games with High-A Tampa — but he also might have led the league in home runs had he not missed time with an injury. He instead ranked fifth with 16 homers. Only one player in the league had more than 19. “Jagielo hit home runs in college,” Mark Newman said. “He probably hit more and exhibited more power than we had anticipated, but we thought he had power.” While I would give Jagielo the nod as the system’s top third base prospect, Bichette had a nice year after back-to-back disappointing seasons. He wasn’t nearly as good after a late promotion to Double-A, but he did enough to get back on the map. If he can rediscover some of the power numbers he showed during his strong half season in 2011, Bichette could really make a push next year.
Deeper in the system
Two top draft picks headline the third base position in the Yankees minor league system, but two young players signed out of the Dominican Republic had nice years in the lower levels. Andujar in particular stands out as an interesting and legitimate prospect. Playing full-season ball for the first time, Andujar got off to a slow start with Low-A Charleston — a brutal month of May left him with a .212/.267/.335 slash line at the All-Star break, but he rebounded in a big way by hitting .319/.367/.456 in the second half. Still just 19 years old, Andujar’s a kid with a long way to go, but he put up good numbers in rookie ball last year, and this season’s second half was another step forward. Coming up behind Andujar, a 21-year-old named Allen Valerio hit .292/.404/.472 in his first season in the U.S., but he was pretty old for rookie ball.
An outfielder in the infield
While the Yankees don’t have a full-time third base prospect who’s knocking on the door to the big leagues, they do have Tyler Austin who’s likely to land on the 40-man roster this offseason and should open next season in Triple-A. Converted to right field back in 2012, Austin really hasn’t played much third base lately, but he’s played the position in the past and he got a little bit of time at third last season. After a strong second half and an assignment back to the Arizona Fall League, Austin should be one of the top prospects on the Scranton/Wilkes-Barer roster next season. If he hits, the Yankees might have to find a way to give Austin an opportunity in New York, and third base could be a way to do that either as a regular or part-time player at the position. A right-handed corner utility man would fit pretty well with this roster, and Austin could be that type of player if the Yankees still trust him in the infield.
Associated Press photo
Jeter’s new commercial • 09.19.14
I really liked Derek Jeter’s cap-tipping “RE2PECT” commercial. How could you not?
I still like it better than his new Gatorade commercial. Yet this new one is rather appealing and well done as well.
It doesn’t sound like Jeter just made it to stuff more money in his pockets, that there was a sincere meaning behind the concept of walking down River Avenue to Yankee Stadium and mingling with the fans along the way (to the soundtrack of “My Way” after the fact).
“It was an opportunity, I felt, to thank people, which I’ve been pretty consistent with every time I’ve spoken, how much the fans have meant to me and my entire career,” Jeter said.
Here’s more on the Jeter commercial from my Yankees notebook, which also includes items on Carlos Beltran and Masahiro Tanaka.
Also, here’s my story on the beginning of Jeter’s final homestand, which included a solo homer by him in the 3-2 win over the Blue Jays Thursday night.
And here’s my feature story on Chase Headley, including his thoughts on coming back here in 2015 and on the aftermath of getting hit with that 96 mph fastball on his chin last week.
Chad will join you later. Thursday night was my last scheduled game for the season. You’re welcome to join me at Twitter @bheyman99 or check out Lohud.com or The Journal News, if you live in the area. As always, thanks for reading, appreciate it.
Photo by The Associated Press
The final regular-season homestand of Derek Jeter’s career began well for the Yankees thanks in part to The Captain, in part to Shane Greene and in part to Adam Lind doing his Bill Buckner impression at first.
Jeter went 2 for 4 in the 3-2 win over the Blue Jays after arriving at 1 for 30. He hit a solo homer to give the Yankees a 2-0 lead in the sixth, his first home homer since July of last year, snapping a 298 at-bat streak without one here and a 158 at-bat streak without one overall this season, dating to Aug. 1. So he’s up to .250 with four homers and 41 RBI.
“Obviously this year, up until this point, hasn’t turned out how I would like it to,” Jeter said. “But you’ve got to keep fighting. You’ve got to keep battling.”
The Yankees are five games back of Oakland for the second wild card with 10 to play. A rather longshot at this point. So Jeter keeps getting reminded that it’s his last homestand everywhere he turns.
“I’m trying not to think about it being the last homestand,” Jeter said. “We still have a week left. We’re trying to win games. I’m going to go out there and play hard like I’ve always done my entire career until we’re out of games.”
Greene should be back to pitch more games next season. The 25-year-old rookie has allowed three runs or less in 12 of his 14 starts, including no runs and three hits in 6 2/3 in this latest outing. Greene has a 1.06 ERA to show for his last three starts.
“This young man has four pitches he can go to and he has confidence in them, and he has the ability to throw strikes,” Joe Girardi said. “He’s been impressive to me.”
The Yankees won when Chase Headley’s grounder got by Lind for a walk-off error.
“It was a tough play for Adam,” Jeter said, playing defense for him.
Stephen Drew had an RBI double, snapping a career-worst-tying 16 straight games without driving in a run. He went 2 for 3 to lift his average to .163. Somehow I don’t think he’ll be the heir to Jeter’s throne.
Here’s my Lohud.com/Journal News story on Jeter and this first game of the homestand. And here’s my feature story on Headley after speaking to him before the game about possibly returning and about the aftermath of getting hit in the chin last week.
The photo of Jeter’s home-run swing is from The Associated Press.
Pregame notes: “I need to get stronger” • 09.17.14
These are Mark Teixeira’s numbers this season.
First half: .241/.341/.464 with 17 home runs in 73 games
Second half: .179/.283/.298 with four home runs in 42 games
“I need to get stronger,” he said. “This second half has been brutal. I just hit a wall. I need to get a lot stronger, so this offseason is going to be important for that because I’m definitely not where I want to be physically.”
Teixiera doesn’t blame the second-half slide on his lingering wrist soreness. Not exactly, anyway. He looks back to an offseason spent rehabbing instead of working out. He couldn’t lift the way he normally does. Couldn’t go through baseball drills the way he’s used to. And while he opened the season with a strong month of April — .862 OPS that month — his numbers have steadily decreased each month after that, with his slugging percentage in particularly showing a steady and significant decline.
“I didn’t have a normal offseason,” he said. “That’s tough, but it is what it is. I had to rehab all offseason, but the wrist is structurally sound, and from all indications it shouldn’t be a problem next year.”
After sitting out last night because of lingering wrist soreness, Teixeira is back in the Yankees lineup lineup tonight. He’s had two cortisone shots this year, and doctors won’t let him get another, but Teixeira said that every examination has shown his wrist to be structurally undamaged. It’s just sore from time to time.
“That’s what was expected all year,” Teixeira said. “I was fully expecting to have some bumps. This season, I can’t really be that disappointed with the wrist. When it’s flared up, we’ve dealt with it. Take a few days off here and there, get a shot here and there when you need it. But it’s structurally sound. That’s the most important thing. If it gets sore every now and then, you deal with it.”
• Determining whether Teixeira can become a productive hitter again seems like a far bigger issue in the big picture, but here and now, there’s still no issue generating more pregame buzz than last night’s hit-by-pitch and ensuing anger on both sides. “I know I’ve told our guys just go out and play,” Joe Girardi said. “I told Brandon McCarthy, just go out and pitch. What’s happened, happened. We move on. And that’s what happens in the game of baseball. It can be a takeout slide, It can be a lot of different things. Then the day turns, and it’s a different day.”
• Maybe that’s true, but Chase Headley was clearly frustrated with Joe Maddon’s postgame comments from last night. Maddon said that Headley had been “grazed” in New York on Thursday. That’s a pretty poor word choice after a guy took a mid-90s fastball to the chin. Headley said he understands that sometimes a phrase comes out wrong in an interview. “I’m just going to hope that that’s what happened,” Headley said. “That it was a poor choice of words, because that certainly wasn’t the case. I was pretty lucky, the way that it turned out, but I don’t think that it’s fair to be minimized or kind of downplayed in how this all went. … If Evan Longoria got hit like that, or Ben Zobrist or one of their guys, he wouldn’t use that term.”
• Headley said a teammate sent him the comments last night. “I can tell you what the doctor said and what I went through,” Headley said. “I think that speaks for itself. … (The doctor) said it was a miracle that my jaw didn’t shatter. That’s his term.”
• For whatever it’s worth, Headley looked alright when he rejoined the Yankees on Friday, but he’s looked progressively worse since then. There’s now bruising all over his chin and neck due to all the internal damage. Girardi said that blood is starting to collect in Headley’s chest. It’s not a great situation, even if he’s playing through it. “I don’t think Joe understood how hard he got hit,” Girardi said. “I think maybe he misunderstood because of Chase’s toughness, how hard he actually got hit.”
• Remember back in April when Cesar Cabral pitched here at Tropicana Field, faced six batters and hit three of them? That was pretty ugly, too. As Dan Barbarisi pointed out on Twitter today, in the past five years, the Rays have actually been hit by pitches more times than the Yankees in their head-to-head games. That includes this season, when the Yankees have been hit seven times and the Rays have been hit eight times. Girardi, though, stressed that it’s not the number of hit-by-pitches, it’s the location that has him most upset. He feels the Rays have hit the Yankees too high.
• Carlos Beltran is still away from the team. “He’s still attending his family matter,” Girardi said. “I told him to take care of it. When we have you, we have you.”
• Jacoby Ellsbury is getting another turn at DH to rest his ankle. “This guy’s been playing with an ankle sprain for a month or three weeks or two weeks, whatever it’s been,” Girardi said. “On the turf it’s probably even rougher, so I figured I’d give him a DH day.”
Associated Press photos
As he sat in front of his locker postgame, I really doubt Brett Gardner expected to stand up and give essentially an end-of-the-season address, but that’s exactly what happened. A crowd of reporters gathered around, asked just a handful of questions, and Gardner put words to all that’s left the Yankees six games out of the second wild card with 13 to play.
“I feel like things have been slipping away for a few weeks,” Gardner said. “To be honest, I haven’t looked at the standings the last couple of days because at this point they don’t really matter. We’ve got to win every day. Until we’re five, six, seven games out with five, six, seven games to go and eliminated, I’m still going to hold out hope, and I still believe in the group of guys we have here. I still come to work every day and play hard, but like I said, we’re not in a good spot right now, and it’s a shame because our pitchers have really stepped up the last couple of months and done a good job. As an offense, we haven’t.”
It’s true. Even speaking to Shawn Kelley, who had a rough ninth inning and allowed the walk-off single, it was basically impossible to hang this loss on his shoulders. The bullpen’s had a bit of a rough time lately, but who could blame them? They’ve been trying to preserve tiny leads for nearly six months now.
“As well as we’ve pitched, we didn’t need to be great (offensively),” Gardner said. “We just needed to be good. And we haven’t been.”
The Yankees were shutout for the 10th time this season. But it’s more telling that they were shutout for the fourth time in the past 11 games and for the fifth time in the past 16 games.
“You feel like you’re due at some point,” Gardner said. “I don’t feel like it’s been a couple of games. I feel like it’s been pretty much all season. We’ve had flashes of being pretty good, but for the most part, we’ve just struggled to get guys across the plate. It’s frustrating because, with all the injuries we had to our rotation, the guys that have come up and come in from other places have really stepped up and done a great job, pitched really well and kept us in the ballgame. Just like tonight, all we needed to get was just one or two runs and we couldn’t even get that. It’s just really frustrating. Guys are working really hard. Guys are trying. Guys are putting in the effort. For one reason or another, we’re just not getting it done.”
Last year, the team’s offensive problems were easy to dismiss as a product of overwhelming injury problems. Not this year. There have been injuries, sure, but the truly devastating blows haven’t hurt the lineup.
“The bulk of our injuries have been to our rotation,” Gardner said. “And down the stretch here, our pitching and our rotation has been our strength. As a position player, as a hitter, it makes it a lot tougher to feel like you … you feel like you’re not picking them up. You’re not getting the job done.”
• Most explosive thing any Yankees hitter did today was Chase Headley getting ejected one pitch into his seventh-inning at-bat. Headley had a problem with a low strike called by home-place umpire Marty Foster, and his disagreement turned into a rather lengthy back-and-forth between player and umpire. At one point Foster took off his mask to snap back at Headley, and as Headley was getting back in the box to continue his at-bat, Foster threw him out of the game. “There was a conversation before it happened which I thought was fairly mild tempered,” Headley said. “I thought that he was an aggressor towards me. I told him to calm down and he kept yelling at me. I said I didn’t appreciate that.”
• More Headley: “I didn’t think what I said to him warranted the response that I got, and it just kept going. I think more than the balls and strikes was just the reaction that I got from him was not in any way comparable to how I was speaking to him. So that’s basically what happened. I’m not going to get into too much more specific about that. Yeah there was disagreements about the pitches but that’s not where it ended up.”
• It seems Headley’s problems with Foster started from his very first at-bat. “The borderline ones you can live with,” Headley said. “But the first pitch of the game, I come in, got hit with 97 in the mouth (last week), and the first pitch I see is 95 at my ribs. Then he calls a changeup a foot off the plate and it’s like, c’mon. It kind of started me off on the wrong foot. The borderline ones you live with but when there’s a pitch that should not be missed, ever, I think that’s when as a player you get a little bit more upset.”
• Girardi on the Headley ejection: “It’s one thing if you’re arguing, you’re going back and forth and showing him up, but these games mean something. It’s a shame. He questioned some strikes. Hitters should be allowed to do that. We should be allowed to do that. At some point, it would be nice if umpires said, ‘If you say another thing, you’re gone.’ You can do that. If he barks and you bark back; it wasn’t like a whole lot of people knew what was going on. It’s frustrating to me.”
• The Yankees have lost four of their past five games. Of those four losses, one was credited to Dave Robertson, one to Adam Warren, and tonight’s to Shawn Kelley. That’s a rough stretch for a bullpen that’s been terrific nearly all year. “Every time we pitch the game’s on the line,” Kelley said. “But I’ve got to go out there and put up a zero whether it’s nothing-nothing or it’s 10-nothing. … You pitch a lot of games out of the bullpen, and that’s just part of the game. We’re all in great shape, we’ve all prepared for this, and I don’t think it’s fatigue. ”
• Girardi is usually pretty strict with his rules about managing reliever workload, but playing so many low-scoring games this season has essentially forced him to use his go-to guys a lot. “There’s not a lot of wiggle room,” Girardi said. “You look at the games we’ve lost 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2 or whatever, there’s not a whole lot of wiggle room. They’re not going to be perfect. They’ve been really, really good, but they’re not going to be perfect.”
• I honestly felt bad, but not a single reporter interviewed Chris Capuano postgame. He just wasn’t the story. Really nice bounce-back start for him — coming off that one-out performance last week, he went six scoreless tonight — but a strong pitching performance just isn’t anything new and doesn’t carry much weight at this point. The Yankees are all about their failing offense. Great start for Capuano, just didn’t feel the need to hear what he had to say about it.
• Last Yankees starter to throw at least six scoreless innings on two hits or less and not earn a win was Freddy Garcia back in 2011. Capuano has only five decisions in his past 18 career starts dating back to last season.
• Didn’t mean much in the end, but Gardner said he and Jacoby Ellsbury called for that dropped fly ball at the exact same time. “We just kind of ran into one another a little bit, and I wasn’t able to hold onto it,” Gardner said. “But Cap made a couple of good pitches after that and was able to pick me up. Didn’t end up hurting us today, we just, same story. Been pitching really well, but it’s just been hard for us to score runs.”
• This was the fifth time a Yankees player was ejected this season. Gardner, Kelley, Michael Pineda and Cesar Cabral were previously thrown out of games.
• Final word to Girardi: “We’re just not hitting. For whatever reason, we’re not hitting. I think we’ve scored six runs on this road trip, lost three games in the last inning, in the bottom of the inning. It’s frustrating. Eventually I think it’s got to turn, but it better turn pretty quickly here.”
Associated Press photos
This is Derek Jeter final game at Camden Yards, a place that’s awfully familiar for the retiring shortstop. Jeter has plenty of strong ties to the ballpark and this city, beginning with iconic Orioles shortstop Cal Ripken Jr. and extending through their current manager Buck Showalter. This afternoon, Jeter held a press conference to discuss his final trip to Baltimore. A few highlights:
On Showalter’s idea that the Orioles give Jeter a framed poster of Jeffrey Maier’s catch
“I’ve already reaped the benefits of it. I don’t need a poster. I’ve had other reminders. It was funny playing with Tony (Tarasco), I forget what year it was he came and played for us. We had a lot of fun with that one.”
On the impact of Showalter as Jeter’s first big league manager
“The thing I appreciate with Buck is the fact that he gave me the opportunity to stay around for the postseason (in 1995). I wasn’t on the roster, and they could have sent me home or sent me back down to Tampa to be one of those just-in-case guys, but Buck kept me around and allowed me to see what the postseason atmosphere was like, which I think helped me the following year going into the playoffs. Even though I didn’t get a chance to play (in the ’95 postseason), I got a chance to see and feel what the atmosphere was like. I owe him for that. … You can’t prepare for nerves. How you’re going to feel, those are things you’re going to have to deal with. For him to give me the opportunity, I think I was more nervous watching the playoffs in ’95 than I was playing in ’96. A lot of that is a credit to him.”
On remembering the disappointment of the 1995 postseason
“Of course. I’ve always been a believer in, you try to remember the good times, but you also remember the times when you struggle and you lose. You remember what that feeling is like. When you remember those feelings, you don’t want to have them again. That’s what drives you, that’s what makes you continue to work. Yeah, I remember. Donnie played his entire career and got to the playoffs one time, his last year. So I never took that for granted. I’m glad I had an opportunity to see it. It may sound kind of funny, I’m not glad that they lost, but I’m glad that I had the opportunity to be around it.”
On the impact of Cal Ripken Jr.
“He’s someone I always looked up to, and I feel as though when I was younger I was allowed to continue playing the position because of guys like Cal. Taller shortstops. The bigger shortstops. A lot of guys today owe that to him. … I just remember when I was younger, not necessarily professionally, just growing up and playing shortstop and being tall, people would say well shortstops aren’t tall. The first line of defense is ‘Cal Ripken,’ and then everybody would shut up, you know what I’m saying? Yeah, he set the standard. There were other guys, but Cal was so big that he set the standard for big players playing in the middle of the field. So no, it’s never been brought up, not one time my entire career has switching positions been brought up.”
On the ’90s rivalry with the Orioles
“I was sort of thrust right into it. Baltimore had some great teams. I remember coming here in 1996 in the ALCS my first full season and playing in the playoffs. Cal was on the other side, and this was the person I always admired growing up and still do today. To have the opportunity to play against him in the playoffs, it was a lot of fun. It was exciting. I was nervous. That’s a long time ago. Sometimes it feels like it’s not so long, but it was a very long time ago. Those are the memories that I’ll share with people about Camden Yards, playing those great teams.”
• Francisco Cervelli has said his headaches have gone away, but the Yankees are still reluctant to put him in a game just yet. “The doctors didn’t say it was related to the concussions,” Girardi said. “But we don’t want these cluster migraines to come back. So he’s having to do a lot of activity to make sure it’s not triggered by that. … (Doctors have) talked about going day by day, seeing how he’s doing. He’s increased activity, caught in the bullpen.”
• Still some progress to report on Carlos Beltran. “He swung yesterday and felt better,” Girardi said. “So I’m going to see if they’re going to allow him to take BP today. He might do it in the cage.” Beltran is still hoping to play again before having offseason elbow surgery.
• This might seem like a good day for Ichiro Suzuki to be in the lineup, but the Yankees like what they’ve seen out of switch-hitter Antoan Richardson. “Yeah, (Ichiro)’s healthy,” Girardi said. “Antoan’s been playing well. And this guy (Orioles starter Chris Tillman) has given Ich some trouble. So, I was going to give him yesterday off just because he’d played a lot, day games after night games. Antoan swung well yesterday, and we’ll probably get Ich back in there tomorrow.”
• Jeter’s actually hit the ball fairly hard lately, but he hasn’t had much to show for it. Girardi said he’s planning to give Jeter one of the next three games off. “I don’t think Derek would ever press,” Girardi said. “Could he be physically tired? Well, it’s September, and you’re going to ask every player that, they’re all going to be a little bit tired this time of year. He’s had his days off – probably give him a day off in Tampa somewhere here. Probably would help him. I mean, we’re in a tough stretch here, and we need to make up ground.”
• Has nothing at all to do with baseball, but 10 years ago today, Arcade Fire’s album Funeral was released. It’s just a great album and a pretty important album for the rise of indie artists toward the mainstream in the past decade. Has no relevance for tonight’s game, just something I was reading about earlier today and had stuck in my head.
Associated Press photos
Pregame notes: Baseball mourns Frank Torre • 09.13.14
Joe Torre’s brother has passed away.
Frank Torre was 82, and his health problems were well documented during Joe’s stint as Yankees manager. Frank was not healthy enough to travel to Yankee Stadium for Joe’s number retirement earlier this season. For whatever it’s worth, I have a sister who I’m incredibly close to, and I always enjoyed hearing Joe talk about his brother. In the best of situations, a sibling relationship can be extremely powerful. Our thoughts are obviously with Joe and the Torre family.
Here’s a statement from baseball commissioner Bud Selig:
“I am deeply saddened by the loss of Frank Torre, a close friend for nearly 60 years and a man who marked the start of a great baseball family. Before my career in baseball began, Frank and I formed a friendship that endured for decades, and I was touched to speak with him yesterday. Some of the fondest memories of my life involve Frank’s Milwaukee Braves teams from 1956-1960, and his great play in the 1957 Fall Classic was one of the keys to bringing the World Series Championship to my hometown. Frank’s longtime support of the Baseball Assistance Team, which helps the members of the baseball family who are in need, was an illustration of how much he cared about our game and the people who are a part of it.
“On behalf of Major League Baseball, I extend my deepest condolences to Frank’s children and grandchildren, to Joe and Ali Torre, to Frank’s sisters and to his many friends and admirers throughout our game.”
• Chase Headley is going to work out today. If that goes well, he’ll take batting practice tomorrow. Joe Girardi said the earliest he would consider putting Headley back in the lineup would be Monday. “We’ll see where we’re at (after he hits on Sunday),” Girardi said.
• Second straight game for Jacoby Ellsbury at DH. “(He’s) just played a lot,” Girardi said. “We haven’t had any problems with his ankle, but he is coming off an ankle sprain and didn’t sit out very long, so I figured I would just DH him again today.”
• All’s well with Masahiro Tanaka. Still on track to pitch in that instructs game on Monday.
• For a while there, Shane Greene was routinely pitching to Francisco Cervelli. But Cervelli is still not back in the lineup after suffering those headaches earlier in the month. “He is getting closer, yes,” Girardi said. “He has been doing a lot of things, catching in the bullpen, and has reported no issues. He is closer.” Girardi said that, because of the nature of the problem — Girardi is sympathetic to migraine sufferers; worth noting there’s also a concussion history in play — he’s trying to be extra cautious with Cervelli.
• This late in the season, is Girardi planning to simply play Derek Jeter every day through the end of his career? “No, I know I can’t do that,” Girardi said. “It’s 20 games in a row or 20 days in a row physically, it would be silly to do that, so I’m going to have to give him a day here and there.”
• There is still hope that Carlos Beltran will be able to play again this season. “Each day he’ll try to do more and I’ll have a better idea what he can do,” Girardi said. “He took swings yesterday. I have not talked to him today, but I would think he would try to take more today if he felt OK when he came in. We want him back as soon as we can get him, but he’s got to feel OK.”
• Quiet clubhouse this morning, but to be honest, I’d expect it to be that way regardless of what happened yesterday. A day game after a doubleheader — which came after a late night of travel — isn’t exactly a recipe for a lively bunch of ballplayers. Of course, being swept in that doubleheader and falling in farther from contention isn’t likely boost the team’s spirits either. “I don’t think you have any choice but to keep fighting,” Girardi said. “Other teams are having their issues, as I said yesterday. Why not? You run off a streak and all of a sudden you’re back in it. Yesterday was physically a hard day, and it was mentally a hard day, but the team has bounced back before and I expect them to do it.”
Associated Press photo