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
This was the week of Thanksgiving, but it didn’t start with many reasons for the Yankees to be thankful.
The Red Sox got a lot better this week — at least, they potentially got better — with a double shot of free agency upgrades. They signed both Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval, arguably the top two position players on the market. By defining Ramirez as a left fielder, the Red Sox have added even more corner outfield depth, increasing the possibility of a significant trade at some point this winter.
In the short term, it’s certainly not good news for the Yankees. Boston has added talent, ownership has indicated a willingness to spend more money, there’s still time and opportunity to add pitching.
If you’re looking for a bright side, Ramirez and Sandoval are fairly risky long-term investments. Ramirez comes with a history of injuries, and Sandoval isn’t exactly a physical specimen. Plus, although there’s opportunity to add pitching, the Red Sox don’t have it yet.
Boston’s not a perfect team, but in the past week, it’s gotten better.
• Just when it seemed the Red Sox would still all the headlines this week, the Blue Jays swooped in late Friday and pulled off a blockbuster trade for Josh Donaldson, arguably the top third baseman in baseball. Brett Lawrie and prospects went to Oakland in the deal.
• Focus shifted late this week to Chase Headley. Both Sandoval and Ramirez seemed to be third base possibilities, and with them off the market, Headley is clearly at the top of the list among free agent options at the position. His market might have grown beyond the Yankees comfort zone.
• One other major free agent signing this week: Cuban outfielder Yasmany Tomas signed a six-year deal with the Diamondbacks. Considered the top international bat on the market, he was never seen as a good fit for the Yankees, who don’t have an opening in the outfield or at designated hitter.
• The Yankees officially added some infield depth by signing Jonathan Galvez to a minor league deal. He’s been a solid hitter in the minors, and while he doesn’t have a great defensive reputation, he’s able to play at least passable defense at third base, second base and left field (and maybe shortstop in a pinch). The Yankees need infield depth, and Galvez can at least plug various holes in Triple-A.
• Many former Yankees have found minor league homes elsewhere, including Jeremy Bleich with Pittsburgh and both Jairo Heredia and Corban Joseph with Atlanta.
• This year’s Hall of Fame ballot was officially announced, and while it’s headlined by a trio of first-year eligible pitchers — Randy Johnson, John Smoltz and Pedro Martinez — it’s also notable for being the final ballot for Don Mattingly, who’s eligible for the 15th year.
• Major League Baseball announced this year’s playoff shares, and the Giants got to take home an extra $388,605.94 apiece. Not a bad little perk after winning the World Series.
Associated Press photos
Let’s talk about something other than Alex Rodriguez for at least a little bit. Here are a few notes and links that have nothing to do with the Yankees third baseman.
• Building on a previous report from the Daily News, Jon Heyman reports that the Yankees are focusing on Brandon McCarthy, Jason Hammel and other mid-rotation starters to add some pitching depth. Heyman echoes the belief that the Yankees have no plans of pursuing any of the market’s top three starting pitchers. Heyman also notes that Chris Capuano is a possibility for a return. I actually think that’s a decent idea. Not a bad option as a bullpen lefty with the potential to start if necessary. Pitched well in a fifth starter role this year.
• ESPN’s Dan Szymborski writes that Dave Robertson is one of several players who should seriously consider accepting a qualifying offer this winter. The reasoning follows a familiar sentiment: teams value closers, but they’re rarely willing to pay huge amounts of money to sign them. A contract comparable to $15.3 million, plus a lost draft pick? Might not be many teams willing to do that. Szymborski notes that Jonathan Papelbon went unclaimed this season and that Koji Uehara recently signed for $9 million per year. Szymborski picks out five others who should at least consider accepting the qualifying offer.
• In the wake of Alfonso Soriano’s retirement, David Schoenfield takes a look at the way Soriano’s career should be remembered. “It has been one of the more fascinating careers of the past 15 years as he has been a player with enormous strengths and obvious flaws,” Schoenfield writes, eventually concluding that: “The guy had a good career. He was that rare power-speed combo and, for a few years there, one of the most exciting players in the game. When’s the next time we’re going to see a 40/40 player?”
• Ken Rosenthal reports that the Rockies are willing to listen to trade offers for either Troy Tulowitzki or Carlos Gonzalez. Can’t dismiss that sort of information — two really good players, one of whom is perhaps the best shortstop in the game — but it’s also hard to make too much of it. The Rockies aren’t exactly in a have-to-trade-them situation, and the asking price would surely be astronomical despite the health concerns with each player.
• The Rays announced their eight managerial candidates, and Raul Ibanez is one of them. Ibanez is also seen a potential candidate to be the Yankees hitting coach. Says a lot about him that he just played this year and is already being considered for jobs like this.
• Speaking at yesterday’s Lou Gehrig Sports Awards Benefit, Don Mattingly had some advice for whoever becomes the Yankees next starting shortstop: “I don’t think you can try to live up to (Derek Jeter),” Mattingly said. “I think you just have to be yourself. I think the fans will appreciate that. If you’re a guy that plays the game right and gets after it, I think the fans will accept him over time.” Mattingly was on the other side of the situation watching Tino Martinez taking over for Mattingly himself in 1996.
• Another Jeter connection: The latest offering from The Players’ Tribune is actually a really nice and quick read from Brendan Shanahan, who wrote a letter to his younger self providing draft day advice. It’s a good piece. Not a baseball piece, but a good piece. On a personal note, I will forever think of Shanahan as a member of the St. Louis Blues. That’s just the way that goes.
• And now one that has absolutely nothing to do with baseball, but I’ve become obsessed with this version of Ben Howard’s End of the Affair performed on Later… with Jools Holand. Just a brilliant combination of all the things Howard does so well. Opens as a creative bit of singer/songwriter and explodes into an anguished man screaming into his guitar. Need a palate cleanser after all of this A-Rod business? This will do the job.
Associated Press photo
Tino Martinez added to Hall of Fame ballot • 11.29.10
Former Yankees first baseman Tino Martinez is among the first-timers on this year’s Hall of Fame ballot, but he’ll certainly not be the focus.
Bert Blyleven and Roberto Alomar are back after near-misses last year. Edgar Martinez will once again be a measuring stick for designated hitters getting into Cooperstown. Among the first timers, Jeff Bagwell and Larry Walker might have the best chances for election (Bagwell especially).
And steroids will, of course, come front and center with Juan Gonzalez, Rafael Palmeiro and the lingering issue of Mark McGwire.
This year’s list isn’t especially heavy with Yankees. Don Mattingly is still on the ballot, with a very outspoken corner of the baseball world pleading for his induction. Tino Martinez was a good part of great teams, but probably not a Hall of Famer. Kevin Brown, Al Leiter and Tim Raines spent the bulk of their careers playing elsewhere.
I’m a long way from having a vote, which is good because I have a hard time making up my mind about some of these guys. I’ve gone back and forth about Blyleven, McGwire, Lee Smith, Edgar Martinez and Alan Trammell. Larken, Bagwell and Alomar jump out as players I would definitely vote for, and I’m starting to come around on Raines.
Of course, by the time the election results are announced, I will have probably changed my mind 20 times.
The complete ballot, via the AP: Roberto Alomar, Carlos Baerga, Jeff Bagwell, Harold Baines, Bert Blyleven, Bret Boone, Kevin Brown, John Franco, Juan Gonzalez, Marquis Grissom, Lenny Harris, Bobby Higginson, Charles Johnson, Barry Larkin, Al Leiter, Edgar Martinez, Tino Martinez, Don Mattingly, Fred McGriff, Mark McGwire, Raul Mondesi, Jack Morris, Dale Murphy, John Olerud, Rafael Palmeiro, Dave Parker, Tim Raines, Kirk Rueter, Benito Santiago, Lee Smith, B.J. Surhoff, Alan Trammell, Larry Walker.
A different sort of look • 06.24.10
Until 1996, Joe Torre had much stronger connections to the Braves, Cardinals and Mets than to the Yankees. He had played for three different teams and managed three different teams before he finally wore the pinstripes.
Don Mattingly is a different story.
“Donnie looks a little bit more weird to me than Joe,” Jorge Posada said. “Joe, I have seen him in different unis before he got to New York, but Donny looks strange in that blue.”
There will be a lot of sentiment toward Torre this weekend, but it’s doubtful Mattingly will be completely lost in the shuffle.
“Donnie can do whatever he wants in baseball,” Alex Rodriguez said. “Coach. Manage. General manager. Front office. He’s just got a perfect demeanor. Full of information. He was one of my role models growing up. He played the way that every young child should want to play the game. I wish him well. I think he’s in line to get a great managing job.”