Monday night notes and links • 06.27.11
I have very few absolute rules in life, but one of them is this: If the AP has a cool picture of Yogi Berra and Don Larsen together in the Yankees dugout on Old Timers’ Day, I should find a place for it on the blog.
So, as we’re wrapping up the Yankees final off day until the all-star break, we’ll start with a picture of the catcher and pitcher together again.
Naturally, the return of Joe Torre grabbed the headlines today. Some of Torre’s history might be tainted, but in the end, I think John Harper’s column today was right on the money: Whatever your take on Torre’s book, it’s silly to ignore his place in the franchise’s history. I think it’s possible to be disappointed in the book, but still celebrate the legacy. That seems to be what the Yankees did in inviting Torre to yesterday’s event.
Anyway, here are few more notes and links for the day. The Yankees get back on the field tomorrow against the Brewers.
• Back in Scranton, my old darts playing partner Marty Myers caught up with the one-armed military veteran who made a highlight catch at Yankee Stadium on Friday night. Michael Kacer is from the Scranton area, lost his left arm in a rocket attack in Afghanastan and made a now famous leaning catch with his cap. Great story.
• Here’s a really nice read about Eduardo Nunez’s role on the Yankees and his part in Sunday’s win. It’s written by one of the finest writers and reporters I know.
• Dante Bichette Jr. is getting the full Yankees experience down in Tampa. He seems to be enjoying working alongside Derek Jeter.
• Over at Baseball Prospectus, Jay Jaffe looked at the Yankees struggles against pitchers they’ve never seen. It’s not as much of a problem this year as it was last year.
• River Ave. Blues looked ahead to the 40-man spots that could open when injured Yankees come off the disabled list. I tend to agree with their list. I’d put Buddy Carlyle, Kanekoa Texeira and Brian Gordon at the top of the list of guys who could be removed to open a spot, though Gordon could certainly pitch his way into sticking around as a long man.
• This one’s a few days old, but with Derek Jeter taking some swings today, it seems to apply: The Hardball Times looked at other players — like Jeter — who have experienced an extended wait while on the verge of a major milestone.
• In the final NL voting update before the all-star rosters are announced, Rickie Weeks has moved ahead of Brandon Phillips in the race for second base.
• I failed to mention it until now, but the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center reopened last week after being closed for nearly a year for extensive renovations.
Associated Press photos
Phil Hughes said this start was a lot like his previous start. The home run he allowed was on a flat cutter, his fastball command took another step forward and his changeup was inconsistent but effective. He called the outing a step in the right direction.
“The changeup was not great tonight,” he said. “But I threw a couple of quality ones and I just have to be sure that I continue to use it and not fall into that pattern that I did last year.”
For Hughes, the changeup is old news, but it’s also an ongoing situation. Hughes was happy with the changeup when he left camp last spring, then he neglected to use it through the first half of the regular season. This spring he hasn’t been quite as thrilled with the pitch, but he said he’s more committed to using it. He’s seen enough results to know it can be effective.
“I’m going to (throw it) just because I’m going to force myself to,” Hughes said. “Last year I didn’t do that. It might not have been outstanding today, but I’ll have days when it’s good. I saw some results tonight on it. The few I did throw to neutralize those bats that really got to me last year, Joyce and Johnson stand out, those are two guys that really hurt me because they were sitting on fastballs.”
Oddly enough, Joe Girardi singled out the changeup as one of the things he liked about Hughes outing.
“I know people harp on that changeup a lot,” Girardi said. “But he had it at the end of last year and it’s just a continuation.”
• Joe Torre said his return to Steinbrenner Field was a trip he’d been looking forward to making, and it was made more comfortable by the fact he returned to Yankee Stadium last season. “I don’t think the emotion will ever go out of it because of what these 12 years meant to me that I spent here,” he said. “But it’s not sad by any stretch of the imagination; it was a great run. You cant appreciate the good times unless there were some bumps along the way. I wouldn’t change a thing. The last three years were stressful, but that’s all part of it.”
• Torre has been invited to Old Timers’ Day and he plans to attend, which means he’ll be back in pinstripes this year. “Whatever (uniform) they give me,” he said. “As long as they don’t ask me to play, it’s okay. I never did that in a Yankee uniform.”
• I didn’t see it, but the word around the stadium was that Yogi Berra tripped again today, only this time he was caught by Rays manager Joe Maddon. Berra is fine.
• Alex Rodriguez has a home run in three straight games, and he has a hit in each of his 11 games this spring. He’s batting .406.
• Nick Swisher’s go-ahead home run in the seventh inning was only his second extra-base hit of the spring. He’s had more at-bats than anyone else in Yankees camp. The Yankees got the win, 3-2.
• Hughes said he wasn’t too down on himself for the first-inning run. He jammed Johnny Damon, who fought off a single, then Hughes thought he struck out Evan Longoria on a 2-2 fastball but he didn’t get the call. “That run I can get out of my head a little easier than a cutter that was flat and just a bad pitch 0-2,” he said.
• Appearing in a game for the first time since March 4, left-handed reliever Boone Logan allowed two hits but ultimately pitched a scoreless seventh inning. The Yankees had his velocity up to 92-93 mph, a nice step forward from his earlier spring outings. “Sometimes that little extra rest in this period is good for guys,” Girardi said.
• Speaking of Logan: He faced four lefties, striking out Matt Joyce and John Jaso, getting Dan Johnson to fly out and getting Reid Brignac to hit a ground ball to second that went for an infield single.
• The Yankees had only three hits tonight, but two were home runs. The third was a triple by Curtis Granderson, who was left stranded. Of the Yankees five base runners — Robinson Cano walked twice — three scored.
• Joba Chamberlain came through this morning’s throwing just fine and will likely throw a bullpen this weekend. That’s the plan right now, anyway. “See how he feels tomorrow, but today was good,” Girardi said.
• Everything is still on track for Sergio Mitre to pitch tomorrow. He felt fine after yesterday’s bullpen. “It feels like it’s been a long time,” Mitre said.
• Romulo Sanchez has hard-to-hit stuff, but his command is erratic. Tonight he walked three in two-thirds of an inning, but Steve Garrison bailed him out with the final out of the eighth. Luis Ayala pitched the ninth for the save.
Associated Press photos, the one in the middle is of Berra and Girardi with Don Zimmer, at the top is Swisher signing autographs. That’s Hughes at the bottom. And I have no idea why I labeled them in that order, but I’m sticking with it.
Saturday notes and links • 01.08.11
Yesterday, Brian Cashman said he’s not willing to lose a first-round draft pick to sign any free agent still on the market. However, Jon Heyman reported today that he’s hearing that the Yankees are still in the mix for Rafael Soriano. Guess we’ll have to wait and see.
Some other links and notes from the day:
• The Daily News is reporting that Joe Torre is in talks to become Major League Baseball’s executive vice president of operations. Doubt anyone will be especially surprised to see Torre end up in the league’s front office.
• Following a report that the Yankees have started talking with Andruw Jones, The Yankee U — can’t use the word Universe — looked into Jones’ value as a Marcus Thames replacement. Jones has become a very Thames-like hitter, but with a better glove.
• Here’s an interesting quote from Lance Berkman about his time with the Yankees. It comes from several months ago, when the season was still going on. It’s easy to understand why Berkman wanted to get back to the National League. He didn’t enjoy the DH experience.
• Dave Cameron makes the case that the Rays trade of Matt Garza might make them better, not only in the future, but in the immediate here and now. This Marc Topkin report seems to support that theory: The Rays will spend that money they saved on Garza to boost the lineup and bullpen.
• This morning I wrote that the George Steinbrenner statue in Tampa is made of brass. It’s actually made of bronze. I actually remember double checking the article to make sure I had that it correct, and I apparently I still managed to read the word “bronze” and see the word “brass.” Strange. Sorry about that.
An unusual feeling • 11.12.10
It may only be a technicality but for Derek Jeter, the past few days have meant facing a strange reality: He’s not a Yankee right now. Actually, if we’re being official about it, he’s unemployed.
“I think my parents were joking about it, earlier today,” Jeter told the media last night at Joe Torre’s “Safe At Home” gala. “My grandmother said I have no job, so then you think about it. But really, it doesn’t feel like there’s anything different, if I’m just telling you how I feel. I understand that there are negotiations that are going to come and those types of things, but for me personally, I don’t feel any different.”
Jeter confirmed that he and the Yankees had a meeting earlier this week in Florida, though he said the subject of a position change down the road didn’t come up. Ultimately, as Brian Cashman said, “I think we both want the future to be in pinstripes,” and there seems to be little doubt that Jeter will sign a new deal soon.
Until then, he’s out of work, though somehow I don’t think the Yankees are going to change the locks on him or anything.
* That’s an AP shot of the newest member of the American unemployed.
Jeter: “I wasn’t even looking over there” • 06.26.10
Whether you liked it or not, it was inevitable that last night’s game would be all about the reunion of Joe Torre and the Yankees. There were a hundred story angles — and an off day when there was little else to write about — and every angle was covered a hundred ways. At some point, though, last night’s game was about baseball.
“Pretty much the novelty wore out,” Derek Jeter said. “I wasn’t even looking over there.”
For the most part, that’s the way it will be today and Sunday (except for the obvious Andy Pettitte stories in the finale). Joe Girardi said last night’s game began feeling like any other game as soon as batting practice ended.
The only exception was the exchanging of lineup cards. Girardi rarely goes to the plate to swap lineups, but he went last night, a decision orchestrated by Torre.
“He made a funny comment that I don’t care to share,” Girardi said. “But it got a chuckle out of me.”
From that moment on, it was about the game. It was about CC Sabathia and Alex Rodriguez and Mariano Rivera, with Torre being little more than a background character.
“You have to think about the game,” Jorge Posada said. “Try to think about how you’re going to get the guys out. I didn’t want to look over there.”
Associated Press photo of Girardi and Torre exchanging lineup cards.
After Joe Torre answered two questions about the Dodgers this afternoon, a Los Angeles reporter looked at the group of writers huddled in the dugout and said, “It looks like you have some old friends here.”
“Who told you that?” Torre said. “Them?”
The Yankees are playing in northern Los Angeles tomorrow, but tonight most of the Yankees beat writers are in Anaheim. Early morning flights from Phoenix, early afternoons spent stuck in L.A. traffic and finally a few minutes with Torre, who began quickly joking with the reporters he knew so well in New York.
“The odd thing for me is I’m going to be over there in that dugout pulling against people I’ve never pulled against before,” he said. “That’s the weird part. I’m sure the competitiveness comes out and you probably won’t think about it as much then as I am now.”
Torre said he ate lunch today with Yankees trainers Gene Monahan and Steve Donohue, and with Yankees clubhouse manager Lou Cucuzza. “Some of my old gang,” he said. He expects tomorrow to be emotional for him, at least until the game starts.
“Considering that while I was there we eliminated all of their weaknesses, I’m sorry I did that now,” he joked.
Here’s the audio for most of the interview, 11 minutes or so. Torre talked quite a bit about the book, his relationship with the front office and the impact of moving to Los Angeles.
“The thing that gets me is last year, I’m watching the World Series, and not one minute did I wish I was in the dugout to be honest with you,” he said. “It was great and I did it a lot of times, but that was enough.”
“It’s just out of respect” • 06.24.10
Within the Yankees fan base, opinions of Joe Torre have changed in the past few years. He didn’t leave the organization on good terms, then he co-wrote the book and now he’s seen in some corners as a traitor.
But for the players most closely associated with him, Torre seems to be the same. Before last night’s game, Derek Jeter said he had already talked to Torre once that day. Of course, as he always does, Jeter called his old manager Mr. Torre.
“I was 21 when I came up,” Jeter said. “It’s out of respect. Not saying I don’t have respect for you guys if I don’t call you mister, (but) he’s been like a father figure to me. It’s just out of respect.”
What do the Core Four and Torre’s replacement remember about him?
“The way he treated me. Not only me getting a chance to play. Obviously I’m going to thank him forever, and the organization, but the way he treated me was really special. I will always remember that.”
“He’s like a father figure. He was not only my manager, he was just somebody that you could talk to. Not about baseball, just talk to him about life. At a very young age he was always there. You all know how much he supported me, through the good times and the bad times. When I struggled, he stood for me. They wanted to trade me, and he put his neck on the line for me. That obviously means an awful lot to me.”
“Joe was more than a friend. He was a mentor. I would say, a guy that always was there, giving me the best advice that he can give. Always supporting me. I remember 97, my first year as a closer. I was struggling a little bit in the beginning. He said, ‘Don’t worry about what you do. As long as I’m here, you will be my closer.’”
“I learned a lot from the way he handles people, the way he deals with people. I’ve said it before about, people always say you treat everyone the same. You don’t treat everyone the same. You treat everyone fairly. I think he was pretty good at that.”
“I was his bench coach and he allowed me to do a lot of things as a bench coach. He allowed me to manage the game and make whatever suggestion I wanted. For that I’m forever grateful. It was his job to decide how many good ideas I had, but there were open lines of communication and he allowed me to say whatever I was thinking. It was great.”
Here’s the audio from Jeter.
And from Rivera.
Associated Press photo
Some evening potpourri • 03.10.10
• I’ve never quite understood the whole “sign a one-day contract and then retire” thing but that’s what Nomar Garciaparra did today and, according to Johnny Damon, it was a “classy move” by both the Red Sox and Garciaparra. Apparently the wounds from 2004 have healed and, now that he’s retired, we’ll all be seeing Nomar again on ESPN.
When some of us asked Damon which team he would do such a thing with when it came time to retire, he went quiet for a second, then shrugged and said, “I guess my longest tenure is with the Royals – and I haven’t played there in 10 years!”
Amazingly, he’s right – six years in KC, two in Oakland, four in Boston and now four in New York for the well-traveled Johnny.
• Torii Hunter is one of my favorite players – both to watch play and interview – and his overall point about African-American players in baseball is a reasonable one to bring up. It just didn’t come out particularly well, as you can see in this story, and even Hunter knows it.
• Joe Torre is off in Taiwan with part of the Dodgers team so Don Mattingly is the interim manager in Arizona. In an interview this afternoon, Donnie Baseball revealed that the Dodgers have talked with him about eventually becoming Torre’s replacement. Remember when the Yankees were choosing between Mattingly and Joe Girardi? Seems like a long time ago now, doesn’t it?
• Unfortunate situation involving the Rays pitcher David Price today. Seems he was hit on the hand by a shattered maple bat, though he was lucky and will escape needing stitches. “It was more of a scare than anything else,” Price said, according to The AP. “I don’t really remember what happened, to be honest. Tried to make a play on the ball and I guess out of the corner of my eye I saw the bat and just threw my hands up. Could have been a lot worse than what it is right now.”
Joe Maddon said what a lot of people around the game are thinking, likening the maple bat to the Claymore Mine, which was an explosive in use since World War II. Maple bats have shown an incredible propensity toward shattering, and their shards are very, very dangerous. “If we’re going to wait for someone to actually get killed or impaled,” Maddon said, “we’re going to wait way too long. Something has to be done.”
• Finally, Major League Baseball announced PED suspensions for several minor leaguers, including two from the Yankees Dominican Summer League team. Josue Rodriguez and Israel Tolentino will both serve 50-game bans for testing positive.
That’s it for tonight. Thanks to everyone for reading and commenting on a long day. Back at it tomorrow, though the clubhouse won’t open until around 1:30 p.m. because it’s a night game. Check in early and often, though, for a few other items before we get to Yankees-Braves.