Pinch hitting: Bill Ambrose • 02.12.15
Today’s Pinch Hitter is Bill Ambrose, a lifelong Yankees fan born and raised in the Fordham section of the Bronx. Now a practicing attorney in Westchester County, Bill wrote that he “realizes the best job he ever had was as a vendor at Yankee Stadium as he was able to watch baseball, get some exercise, make money and have a few free beers at the end of the night.” Bill now lives in Pearl River with “his beautiful wife and two rabid Yankee fan sons.”
For his post, Bill suggests a surprising acquisition: a player general dismissed as having one of the worst contracts in the sport.
Much has been said this offseason about the condition of the Yankee starting pitching staff. However, despite all of the injuries last year, the Yanks did not miss the playoffs because of lack of pitching.
They failed to make the playoffs because they did not hit enough.
The 2015 Yankees look like a fine collection of hitters suitable to bat 1 or 2, or 6 through 9 in the order. Where is the guy we want to see? The player who keeps us in our seats for each at bat? The player you know at any time may belt the monster home run that takes your breath away?
Brian McCann? No.
Mark Teixeira? No.
Jacoby Ellsbury? No.
The Yanks need to bring in a thumper who energizes the lineup, the team and the fans. A player who, as George said, puts “fannies in the seats.” Luckily there is such a player available, and the Yanks should go get him.
The player is Josh Hamilton.
As a member of the Texas Rangers from 2008 through 2012, Josh was one of the most feared hitters in baseball. At the Yankee Stadium Home Run Derby in 2008, he energized the Bronx like few have before. He is a big, strong lefty hitter who is made for Yankee Stadium. He would excite the fans, diversify and lengthen the lineup, and give us hope.
Fans my age have seen players from Roy White and Bobby Murcer to Curtis Granderson and Johnny Damon hit homers in Yankee Stadium. They all look like Little Leaguers next to Josh. He can and will hit home runs by accident in Yankee Stadium.
Imagine Josh Hamilton batting anywhere from 3 through 5 in the Yankees’ lineup in place of Beltran, McCann or Teixeira. He is an improvement over every one of them. He has underperformed the past two years in Anaheim, and still his OPS would be at or near the top of the 2013 and 2014 Yankee stats. If the Yanks got him closer to his Texas stats by playing him in a favorable ballpark, he would be a big star once again.
The Angels want to get rid of him and will either pay a good percentage of his salary for a moderate return or take back one of our high contracts. He would then become affordable. We have two hitting coaches, so one should be able to help him return to form. We can mix in DH time with right field time or maybe even first base to keep him healthy. We can hire his old “Accountability Partner” Johnny Narron to help him off and on the field. Johnny can help keep him away from temptation and let Josh take over New York.
Since I came up with this idea Hamilton has undergone surgery to his right (non-throwing) shoulder. Hopefully this results in a further drop in the price. If not, wait until you see him perform in spring training.
Over the decades we have had players like Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle and Reggie Jackson who brought that feeling that any at bat could be a great one. A-Rod did that before permanently tarnishing himself. You didn’t dare hit the fridge or go to the bathroom during their at bats.
I have been watching the Yankees since 1965, so I grew up with bad teams. Regardless, I still knew as a child I wanted to see Mickey Mantle hit, because he was big and strong and could put a pitch in the seats at any time. There is no hitter on the current Yankee team that makes you watch the game longer or defer your trip to the fridge or the bathroom. Josh Hamilton would that excitement. He would give the feeling that on any pitch could come the moon shot to the seats that changes the game. He keeps me from hitting the fridge, which is no small accomplishment. He is the guy to get.
Associated Press photo
A few things worth having on your radar this Wednesday afternoon.
• According to Jon Morosi, James Shields is expected to pick a team by the end of this week. While Morosi mentions the Yankees as a team recently connected to Shields, there’s no real indication that the Yankees are a favorite or even heavily in the mix. Signing Shields would certainly represent a change of course for the Yankees this offseason, though it’s easy enough to make a case for such a signing, especially if Shields’ market has dipped his contract demands into the three-year range. He’s been really good the past four years.
• Not sure it means much, but it’s interesting: There’s a report out of Buffalo that during the 2014 season, Derek Jeter looked into purchasing the Buffalo Bills. It’s well known that Jeter would like to become a team owner some day, though it’s been assumed that he would like to own a baseball team and not a football team. Might have been little more than an opportunity he wanted to explore. Jeter’s also reportedly going to appear on the Saturday Night Live 40th anniversary show later this month. So in Jeter’s first few months of retirement he’s going to be an online publisher, a comedy performer, and he was never a football owner. It’s a weird world, folks.
• Until Yoan Moncada signs somewhere, be prepared for plenty of stories about teams that are interested and teams that might be favorites. Basically any team with money to spend will be involved because it seems there’s not a team out there that doesn’t think of Moncada as an overwhelming talent. Last night, Buster Olney singled out the Dodgers. This morning, Peter Gammons mentioned the Dodgers, Yankees and Red Sox along with the Tigers. Also, it’s worth mentioning that two other Cuban players seem to have defected this week during the Caribbean Series.
• Looking elsewhere in baseball, Josh Hamilton needs shoulder surgery and could miss Opening Day. That contract with the Angels has been quite the mess.
• A quick heads up on two baseball-related charity events: First, tonight in Manhattan, MLB Network’s Matt Vasgersian will be a guest bartender at Foley’s (18 W. 33rd St.). He’s helping raise money for Welcome Back Veterans, a non-profit organization that provides PTSD treatment to military veterans and their families. Second, the Baseball United Foundation is hosting a lunch fundraiser with former Yankees and Mets starter Doc Gooden. It’s happening February 21 in White Plains, and they’re calling it — simply enough — Lunch With Doc, and you can get tickets at lunchwithdoc.com. Baseball United is working to promote the game of baseball in Ireland.
Associated Press photo
The Sabathia’s started the PitCCh In Foundation, which does a ton of work for inner-city youth. They’ve also contributed to the Boys and Girls Club, Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities and Strikeouts for Troops as well as several New York based groups. The Sabathia’s will receive the annual award at the Baseball Assistance Team (B.A.T.) Dinner on January 25 at the New York Marriott Marquis in Times Square.
CC was also named one of 10 finalists for the Jefferson Awards for Public Service. It’s given annually to athletes who display an exemplary commitment to service in their community.
A few links and notes from today.
• Jon Heyman once again says the Yankees are still interested in Rafael Soriano. He says Brian Fuentes is also a possibility. The Yankees would have to give up a first-round draft pick to sign Soriano, and they might have to outbid teams that offer ninth inning opportunities to Fuentes.
• Speaking of Heyman, he brings up the possibility of Johnny Damon going to Tampa Bay, leaving Desmond Jenings to open the season in Triple-A.
• All-times saves leader Trevor Hoffman has decided to retire. Mariano Rivera is 42 saves behind Hoffman. Rivera had 33 saves last season and 44 the year before. The fact the number 42 is involved here seems like a good sign, no?
• Brad Penny has agreed to a $3 million deal with the Tigers. At this point it’s easy to forget some of their early offseason moves, but Detroit has done quite a bit to rebuild its team.
• It doesn’t sound serious, but Josh Hamilton has been hospitalized with a case of pneumonia. He’s expected to be released within 24 hours.
• This afternoon — when I wasn’t breaking all of the incredible news surrounding the Yankees these days! — I checked the guide on my TV and found nothing worth watching. That’s when I started flipping through random television nonsense and stumbled upon some sort of live performance by The Shins. Turns out, it was an episode of the Gilmore Girls. Can’t make this stuff up.
Associated Press photo
Postgame notes: “These guys dominated us” • 10.23.10
It doesn’t make the loss any easier to swallow, but the Yankees don’t have to look too deeply for the reason they lost this series. It wasn’t one play, or one decision or one player who cost them the American League pennant.
“They overall played better,” Derek Jeter said. “They pitched better. They hit better. They overall just out-played us. That’s just the bottom line. They were a lot better than us these six games.”
Look back at the games the Yankees won.
Game 1 was decided by a single inning. The Rangers bullpen flinched and the Yankees took advantage with a rally that seemed to be a good indication of things to come. It was instead, a blip on the radar.
Game 5 was a win to hold off elimination, but even in that game, the Rangers had 13 hits and the Yankees were 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position.
In the four losses, the Yankees scored a total of six runs. All told, the Yankees had two regulars — Curtis Granderson and Robinson Cano — who hit better than .270. The Rangers had six regulars who hit better than .300.
“They deserve it,” Lance Berkman said. “They beat us. I don’t feel like we gave it to them. We didn’t kick the ball around. We didn’t play sloppy baseball. They just beat us.”
That’s the reality of this series. The Rangers might not have a better team, but they certainly had a better series. One team in the American League Championship Series played like it belonged in the World Series, and that’s the team that’s going to be playing in the World Series.
“These guys dominated us,” Brian Cashman said.
• As you might expect, Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera and Joe Girardi all said they have not thought about — much less decided — what’s going to happen next season. “We’ll see,” Rivera said. “That, I will tell you guys later on when it happens.”
• Series MVP was obviously Josh Hamilton who hit .350 with four home runs and seven RBI. He was intentionally walked five times, which set an ALCS record.
• The final pitching line is awful, and he took his second loss of the series, but Phil Hughes was actually one pitch away from a pretty good start. Two on and two outs, a 1-0 count to Vladimir Guerrero, Hughes tried to throw a curveball down and away. It wound up in the middle where Guerrero hit a two-run double that broke a 1-run tie. “I tried to make as good of a pitch as I could in that situation,” Hughes said.
• Upset about the decision to intentionally walk Josh Hamilton to bring up Guerrero? “That’s the smart play,” Hughes said. “That’s arguably the MVP of this league. You can’t let a player like that beat you.”
• CC Sabathia was never used. Instead it was Dave Robertson who allowed the back-breaking two-run home run by Nelson Cruz. “I went to a right-handed reliever,” Girardi said. “We were facing right-handers and that’s where I decided to go. I went to David Robertson. You have to remember, CC was coming off a 112-pitch (game). If there was a situation where we would use him against a left-hander, we were going to try to use him in a situation against the left-handers in the bottom of the order if that came up.”
• The one offensive bright spot for the Yankees this series was Robinson Cano: .348 with four home runs and a team-high five RBI.
• Girardi said he was hoping to go to Kerry Wood for the sixth and seven and Mariano Rivera for the eighth and ninth. If that didn’t work out, he still had Sabathia if he needed him.
• Sticking with Hughes to face Guerrero? “Hughesy has had success off Vlad Guerrero and got him out twice (tonight),” Girardi said. “That’s why he stayed there.”
• Every hitter I talked to in the Yankees clubhouse said Colby Lewis did nothing different tonight, he just did everything well. The Yankees were hoping to adjust after seeing him in Game 2. “His adjustments were better,” Jeter said.
• Everyone was ready to give Lewis credit, but at the same time: “We have to be accountable,” Alex Rodriguez said. “We feel like there’s no way that we go and score one run tonight. That’s on us.”
• The last out belonged to Rodriguez. “I had no doubt I was going to get on base,” Rodriguez said. “Then he throws me that dragon of a curveball. I think both me and Lance Berkman, who was behind me, we both flinched.”
• In this stadium, where Rodriguez is booed with so much venom, of course it came down to him. “I was actually pretty excited about that at-bat,” he said. “It’s unbelievable how things come around, and of all people I’m the last guy up there. I’m sure it made it a little bit sweeter for them.”
• It’s easy to forget that a lot of these guys know one another and like one another. “I am happy for guys like Michael Young and Colby Lewis who I played with when they were just kids,” Rodriguez said. Of course, that happiness doesn’t take away the sting. “This is going to hurt for a while,” Rodriguez said. “And it should.”
• Statement from Hal Steinbrenner: “On behalf of the New York Yankees I want to congratulate the Texas Rangers, Chuck Greenberg, Nolan Ryan and their entire ownership, staff and organization on winning their first American League Pennant. They played liked champions and we wish them the best of luck representing the American League in the World Series.”
• Just a quick note: I just booked a flight that leaves in six hours, so I need to hurry back to the hotel. I have quite a bit of audio that I’ll get on the blog tomorrow. Thanks for sticking around, everyone. I really do appreciate it. I’ll have more follow-up on the blog tomorrow and in the coming weeks and months.
Associated Press photos