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
Yankees pregame: Old-Timers’ Day • 06.23.13
The Old-Timers were brought out for the intros, nearly 50 of them. El Duque is among the first-time Old-Timers here. Orlando Hernandez is living in Miami, playing a lot of golf and spending time with his family, and he has a baseball academy for kids.
“It’s a big day for me,” he said.
His best Yankees memory?
“For me, everything is a good memory,” Hernandez said. “When you play for the Yankees, everything is good.”
As usual, there was a long sustained ovation, appropriately, for Bernie Williams. Whitey Ford and Yogi Berra came out last, driven in a cart from a gate in the center-field fence, waving along the way. Berra is 88 and Ford is 84.
After the Old-Timers’ game, Ivan Nova will take the ball in the real game, back from Triple-A to make the spot start. Joe Girardi indicated it has yet to be decided if Nova is staying.
“Obviously when you have a taste of this life, you don’t want to be in the minor leagues,” Girardi said. “This is the place where every player dreams about being. So you have to figure out a way to put yourself in a situation where they can’t consider sending me down. The trick is not getting here. The trick is staying here.”
Thomas Neal was sent down to make room for Nova.
Photo by The Associated Press.
Yankees pregame: Old-Timers’ Day • 07.01.12
Brian Heyman here for Chad again today. The Yankees from glory days and not-so-glory days are here, too, for Old-Timers’ Day.
There were loud ovations during the ceremony, especially for the usual fan favorites as they trotted out onto the broiling field, Bernie Williams, Paul O’Neill, Tino Martinez and Joe Torre. There were the usual loud cheers for the two Hall of Famers who rode in together in the back seat of a cart from center field to behind home plate, 87-year-old Yogi Berra and 83-year-old Whitey Ford. They stayed in the cart and waved. The Old-Timers’ Game is in progress.
“The interesting thing is you get a chance to see a lot of your teammates that you played with and had success,” Joe Girardi said. “And then you always get a chance to see the guys who came before us and had a ton of success. I absolutely love it. … I always like seeing guys that I played with and busting their chops about being Old-Timers. That’s enjoyable to me.”
Girardi reflected about his success here.
“I’ve always thought about my World Series rings as for my kids,” Girardi said. “I made a joke with my wife one day (after) we won the World Series in 1996 and ’98 and we were playing in the playoffs in 1999. I said, ‘That will determine if we have another child or not.’ Sure enough we did. But I’ve got to tell you, I don’t plan on having a fourth one. As a manager, it doesn’t count. But I think the final game in 1996, the first time you have a chance to realize that dream is probably my fondest memory.”
Torre talked about Jeter’s shot at reaching 4,000 hits, seeing it as a long shot. The Captain is at 3,185.
“When people start talking about 4,000, it’s probably out of reach,” Torre said. “But I never question anything this kid has set his mind to, so we’ll see. He has a long way to go. This game is not easy to play on an everyday basis … I don’t think he’s going to hang around for a personal record unless he’s able to contribute to his team doing well.”
A-Rod is not in the lineup today, but it’s just a day off.
“We’re going to go to three days on turf (at Tampa Bay), and then we’re going to have a day off and we have a split doubleheader (in Boston) on Saturday,” Girardi said. “So I’m doing what I can to keep him fresh and trying to be cognizant of the other guys as well.”
Girardi hopes that CC Sabathia will play catch this week with the Yankees on the road.
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
A lot of balls got some help from the wind this afternoon. Alex Rodriguez’s home run in the fifth inning did not. Off to a strong start this spring, Rodriguez’s first home run was legitimate, continuing his strong start this spring.
“It doesn’t matter,” Rodriguez said. “It feels good to be getting my work in.”
Rodriguez is hitting .462 with four doubles and today’s home run. Only Jorge Vazquez, who homered in his first two games, has better spring numbers for the Yankees.
“I did take notice, I thought (Rodriguez) was pretty locked in from day one,” Joe Girardi said. “He’s a talented player. His offseason workouts, he works out extremely hard, and that’s the only thing I can really say. He’s a pretty good player.”
Rodriguez said this is the result of a winter spent training instead of rehabbing. He’s a little bit lighter, said he feels a little more flexible, and Hitting coach Kevin Long met with him more than once this offseason.
“(Spring training is) just a continuation of what we started in November,” Rodriguez said.
• Rodriguez has talked about being more relaxed than in the past. Today’s home run came maybe an inning after Cameron Diaz took a seat behind home plate, and when Rodriguez nearly hustled out of the clubhouse without talking to reporters, one writer joked with him, “What, do you have a date?” Upset him? Not this time. Rodriguez just laughed. “Behave yourself,” he said.
• Russell Martin had his first two hits this afternoon. He also stole a base, suggesting his knee is feeling pretty good. The Yankees will have him catch tomorrow’s home game, giving him back-to-back starts behind the plate.
• And how is Martin behind the plate? “He’s got a good idea back there,” Phil Hughes said. “He’s a good receiver, catches the ball well, frames pitches well and gets some (calls) you might not get with a guy that doesn’t stick as well as he does.”
• Derek Jeter had two more hits today and has his spring batting average up to .357. It’s still too early to know much of anything, but he’s looked a little better at the plate day by day.
• Five Yankees, aside from Martin and Jeter, had two hits today: Eduardo Nunez, Robinson Cano, Andruw Jones, Jordan Parraz and Justin Maxwell. Mark Teixeira and Eric Chavez had a hit apiece, continuing their strong springs. Greg Golson homered.
• Steve Garrison continues to be stretched out in big league camp. He went three innings today, a pretty clear indication that the Yankees are looking at him as a starter instead of a reliever (he’ll open in the minor leagues). On a day like this, giving up one run on three hits was awfully good.
• Converted outfielder Brian Anderson had a tough day on the mound. He faced seven batters, and five of them had a hit.
• Dan Brewer had a stolen base and a double, and Colin Curtis made two nice catches and threw a runner out at the plate, but both left the game with injuries. Right field was apparently not the place to be today.
• I never saw him, but apparently Roger Clemens was here to see his son Koby, who plays for the Astros.
• As you can tell from the picture above, Yogi Berra made the trip to Kissimmee.
Associated Press photos of Berra with Cano; Rodriguez after the home run; Jeter looking back at Jones
Yesterday, just as the bullpens and catching drills were breaking up, Joe Girardi and Tony Pena stayed behind with Jesus Montero, slightly tweaking the way he squats. They seemed to be working on Montero’s base, getting his feet just slightly farther apart.
When someone told Girardi it was time for Montero’s group to taking batting practice, Girardi responded instantly.
“I know he can hit,” Girardi said.
A little defensive work was, for the moment, a priority.
During the day, Girardi bounces around a little bit. He spends time watching pitchers in the bullpen, but he’s also been involved in a few of Pena’s infamous — and occasionally brutal — catching drills. Today, Girardi specifically did some work with Russell Martin.
“Tony told me he was going to do some things with him today that I wanted to see,” Girardi said. “It’s just the importance of that relationship, getting to know him better, understanding what he’s all about and what makes him tick. Just trying to get a better grasp on the player.
“You think about the responsibility the catcher has, he’s responsible for a lot of guys. He’s responsible for 12 pitchers and himself, and you kind of want him to be an extension of what we’re trying to do here. That relationship is important.”
• Speaking of Martin, although he’s not quite 100 percent right now, the Yankees are expecting no restrictions when the season starts. “He hasn’t shown me anything physically right now that won’t allow us to play him every day,” Girardi said.
• As of right now, no plan is in place for when Mariano Rivera will finally get in a game. “I don’t have an exact date,” Girardi said. “Larry (Rothschild) is going to sit down and give us an exact date of when he’ll throw. He usually gets in a game sometime around the 15th, maybe a little before.”
• Speaking of Rivera: “He picked a good day to come,” Girardi said. “Today is our first off-day from running.”
• In theory, having Rafael Soriano could ease Rivera’s workload, but Girardi said he’s planning to treat his closer the same as ever. Three days in a row is not out of the question with Rivera, not like it is with most other relievers. “I’ll continue to treat Mo the same,” Girardi said.
• With room for only one long reliever, the Yankees might try to stretch out some of their one-inning relievers this spring. “That’s something you might see guys do a little in spring training, where we ask them to get more than three outs and we stretch them out a little bit,” Girardi said. “You’d like to have a couple guys who can give you multiple innings, so that’s something we’ll have to look at and see how they respond to it.”
• According to Girardi, Phil Hughes’ increased workload might have contributed to his shaky second half. “I don’t realty have a whole lot of concern about that,” Girardi said. “I think part was maybe the increased innings, but I saw what he did the last few starts, which were pretty good. The start against Boston, the start against Minnesota, those were pretty good starts. He seemed to bounce back. That’s one of the reasons we do put limitations on them, because you worry about fatigue.”
• Once a highly touted pitching prospect in the Yankees system, right-hander Christian Garcia was released last season after a series of injuries derailed his promising career. The Yankees are aware that Garcia, 25, has been working out and plans to throw for scouts, but I was told today that the Yankees have no plans of bringing Garcia back to the organization.
• For those of you interested in such things, Brandon Laird’s locker has been moved to the middle of the clubhouse, filling the spot that was supposed to go to Reegie Corona. He was assigned a wall locker near the door. This “news” has no impact on anything, just thought I’d share.
• Yogi Berra will be in camp at some point next week.
Associated Press photos: Girardi with Martin, Rivera stretching, Curtis Granderson and Greg Golson at the minor league complex
Watch the World Series with Yogi • 10.26.10
Got this announcement from the Yogi Berra Museum.
The Yogi Berra Museum & Learning Center will be hosting its “Watch the World Series With Yogi” event on Thursday, Oct. 28 for Game 2 of the Series, with visitors getting to rub elbows with the man who has won more World Series rings (10) than anyone in baseball history.
The event,including a ballpark dinner,will take place in the intimate Museum theater, with only 65 guests. Tickets are $250, with proceeds to benefit the Museum’s education programs. Call (973) 655-2378.
Yogi answers questions throughout the evening
Today in The Journal News • 02.20.10
Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes pitched side-by-side in the bullpen on Friday, unofficially beginning the competition for the final spot in the rotation. The Yankees say the real competition won’t begin until the exhibition schedule starts, but it’s like Chamberlain said, “what you do today is going to prepare you for the rest of the year.”
Andy Pettitte did not pitch on Friday, but the veteran left-hander said his body feels good and he’s ready to get started. The notebook also has items on the bullpen, two other pitchers taking this slowly, Jose Molina signing with Toronto and the arrival of Yogi Berra.
Notes from Friday • 02.19.10
While Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes were throwing their first official bullpen of the spring, Andy Pettitte followed the lead of CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Javier Vazquez. He stayed off the mound on Friday and will wait a few days before he starts his spring training throwing schedule.
“My body’s feeling good,” Pettitte said. “Everything feels good coming into the spring. I feel real good about that.”
Pettitte said the extra workload of the playoffs shouldn’t bother him because the Yankees did a good job of keeping their three-man, postseason rotation well rested at the end of the regular season. He feels fresh, and he was happy to see the team add another durable arm in Javier Vazquez. Those two had never met another until this winter, but they’ve already played golf together.
“You can’t ever have enough pitching, and not only is he a great pitcher, he’s a quality human being,” Pettitte said. “He’s going to be great here.”
• Joe Girardi on whether he’ll carry two lefties in the bullpen: “In a perfect world, you’d like to have two lefties. Last year we went with one lefty most of the time, and we were able to do it. We believe that our right-handers get left-handers out very well. You look at what Robertson did down there getting left-handers out, he was very successful. But in a perfect world, you’d love to have two because it gives you so many more options.”
• What’s the first thing Girardi looks for in his pitchers during spring training? “To me early, I want to see command of the fastball,” he said. “That’s extremely important. And that you pitch inside effectively. That’s important to us with all of our pitchers.”
• Yogi Berra was in the clubhouse this morning.
• Add David Winfree to the list of outfielders who have popped into the clubhouse. I really wish I could have covered him in Scranton. I went to say hello and it turned into a five minute conversation. Very easy to talk to. Also, he’s a big dude. I have absolutely no trouble believing he can hit a few balls out of the park. And he’s really excited about being a Yankee. He talked about the prestige of wearing the pinstripes.
• Greg Golson was also around for a little bit this afternoon. He popped in and out a few days ago, but I wasn’t sure it was him. This time I said hello, and Golson said he has something to prove after two teams sent him elsewhere. He was a lot like Winfree, very easy to talk to, seems to be out to prove himself. This could be a good situation for him because of that spot on the 40-man.
• Kind of a funny line from Girardi, asked if anything jumped out this early in camp: “A lot of good arms in camp. You look at some of the sizes of these guys. Those are some pretty intimidating figures on the mound. I need a step stool to go talk to them.” He didn’t name names, but I’m thinking Jason Hirsh, Andrew Brackman, Grant Duff, Jonathan Albaladejo and Romulo Sanchez.
• Finally met Kyle Higashioka and Jeremy Bleich today. They’ve been around, but I hadn’t said hello. For the record, their names are pronounce He-ga-she-oh-ka and Bly-sh.
• Pitchers who threw in the bullpen today:
First group: Chamberlain, Garcia, Hughes, Ramirez
Second group: Igawa, Melancon, Logan, Moseley
Third group: McAllister, Nova, Whelan
Fourth group: Bleich, De La Rosa, Mitchell, Noesi
• Like yesterday, I only wrote down the catchers for the first group: Posada caught Chamberlain, Rivera caught Garcia, Montero caught Hughes and Romine caught Ramirez.
• In the picture up top, Girardi and Dave Eiland are on the far left of the group of coaches watching pitchers get loose.