Outside of baseball, 42 is a random number. It could be an age or how much of something one person possesses.
But in baseball, 42 takes on a whole new meaning.
42 was the number that belonged to none other than Jackie Robinson, who broke the color barrier on April 15, 1947 for the Brooklyn Dodgers (now known as the Los Angeles Dodgers). And because of Jackie Robinson, baseball is what it is today.
Jack Roosevelt “Jackie” Robinson was born in Cairo, Georgia on January 31, 1919, the youngest of five children. When he was a high school student, he took up multiple sports ranging from track-and-field, football, tennis, basketball and most importantly of all, baseball. He was the shortstop and catcher on his school baseball team, quarterback on the football team and guard on the basketball team. It was no secret that Jackie Robinson was an athletic individual but he would face challenges that gave him a whole new perspective on the game.
When Robinson enrolled in Pasadena Junior College, he made the baseball team. He was the lead-off man and the shortstop but most importantly, most of his teammates were white. Robinson developed his combativeness towards racial antagonism when he was arrested in 1938 after he vocally disputed the detention of a black friend to police. Robinson was hit with a two-year suspension and after his brother Frank Robinson was killed in an automobile accident, he transferred to UCLA to be closer to Frank’s family.
Like other ball-players in the early 1940′s, Robinson was in the Army although he was never sent overseas. He served as an army athletics coach until he was honorably discharged in 1944. It was then when a former player of the Kansas City Monarchs suggested that Robinson write a letter to the Monarchs co-owner Thomas Baird to ask for a tryout. And that’s exactly what Robinson did. He received an offer in 1945 from the Monarchs to play for their ball-club. The contract was $400 ($5,101 in 2013 dollars) per month, and Robinson couldn’t say no.
While Robinson played for the Kansas City Monarchs, few major league teams were interested in adding a black player to their ball-club. The Red Sox were one of the first teams to show interest, although it was later revealed to be a farce, and were the last team to integrate their roster fourteen years later. The team that showed the most interest in Jackie Robinson–the Brooklyn Dodgers, run by Branch Rickey. Rickey interviewed Robinson, and in a famous three-hour conversation, questioned whether or not Robinson could control his tempter against racial antagonism.
”Are you looking for a Negro who’s afraid to fight back?” Robinson was aghast.
”No.” Rickey replied. “I need a Negro player with guts enough not to fight back.”
Robinson agreed to turn the other cheek and on November 1, 1945, Robinson was signed to a minor league contract, beginning the 1946 season with the Montreal Royals.
In 1947, the Brooklyn Dodgers purchased Robinson’s contract, making him their opening day first baseman. He didn’t have a base-hit his first game, but walked and scored in the Dodgers 5-3 victory. Robinson was received generally positive, although mixed with newspapers and white major-league players. However, there was racial tension in the Dodgers clubhouse. Players would sign petitions and order they wouldn’t play unless Robinson didn’t, but Dodgers managing wouldn’t have it. Robinson was here to stay.
He also faced racial discrimination among other teams, some teams targeting Robinson physically during games. With the antagonism and despair, most players would have given up. But not Jackie Robinson. Robinson had support from players such as his own teammate Pee Wee Reese, who put his arm around Robinson’s shoulder in response to the racial slurs Robinson was receiving during a game in Cincinnati. Pee Wee Reese once famously said these words:
”You can hate a man for many reasons. Color is not one of them.”
At the end of his rookie season, Robinson’s line was .297/.383/.427, earning him the award for Rookie of The Year.
After nine years with the Brooklyn Dodgers, Robinson retired from baseball, but his impact on the game will forever be imprinted on the number Robinson wore the last nine years: number 42.
On April 15, 1997, Major League Baseball universally retired the number 42, although players that already had the number would be grandfathered in, allowing them to keep the number until the day they retire. Future Hall of Fame closer Mariano Rivera is the last player to wear the number 42. Rivera considers it an honor, and is thankful for what Jackie Robinson had done for baseball.
”Jackie Robinson was a great man.” Rivera told ESPN over the weekend during the Baltimore Orioles series at Yankee Stadium. “I have always said that wearing this number is a privilege and a great responsibility. To represent what Jackie Robinson represented for us, as a minority, and for all of baseball in general, it’s tremendous.”
To the Yankees, Jackie Robinson represents a lot. If Jackie Robinson didn’t have the courage or strength to do what he did, we wouldn’t see players such as Curtis Granderson, Mariano Rivera, CC Sabathia or Robinson Cano on the roster–or in the Major Leagues.
”As a baseball player, number 42, without it, I’m not here talking to you.” Curtis Granderson said during an interview with MLB.com. “42 has done amazing things for not only Africans-Americans…but for the globalization of the game.”
”The way he handled himself was unbelievable.” Cano, who pays homage to Jackie Robinson by wearing 24 (the reverse of number 42) said. “I don’t know if I would of had the same courage he had back in the day. That’s somebody that we truly learn from. Not only fighting for ourselves but look how he opened the doors for everybody. Look how different is baseball today. It’s not about one country, it’s about one world. “
”Doesn’t matter where you came from, doesn’t matter what your background is. Your effective impact moving forward is the way that your life should be, and that’s what Jackie did.” Granderson said. “He came from where he was, he broke through the barriers, continued to move in and we still continue to talk about his name now and we will continue to talk about his name forever.”
The Yankees bullpen was supposed to be a strength this year, just like it has been throughout the Joe Girardi era. One of Girardi’s biggest strengths as a manager has been his bullpen management, as he usually never overworks anybody. Bad starting pitching has forced his hand this year, and other than David Robertson and Mariano Rivera, the bullpen has been terrible.
The Yankees bullpen has allowed 21 runs and 52 base runners over 25.2 innings this season. Yesterday, they turned a painless game into an annoying one, as they made closing out a 11-3 game a lot harder than it should have been. Shawn Kelley was awful, as he allowed three runs, three hits and a walk, over 1.1 innings. Kelley was selected to be on the roster over David Aardsma for his ability to pitch multiple innings, but in the second inning of his last two appearances he has allowed two and three runs respectively. His career fly ball percentage of 51.3% may not play well in Yankee Stadium, and his fastball has been down two MPH this year (90.4).
Also, contributing to yesterdays and this season’s poor bullpen performance was Joba Chamberlain. He did not allow a run yesterday, but he did walk two batters in the ninth inning of a 11-6 game, which is brutal. Chamberlain was throwing full count sliders with that 11-6 lead, which just made no sense. This is when he gets into trouble. He over thinks things and does not attack hitters enough. He has great stuff, yet is still always nibbling at the corners, as he has six walks already this year in only 2.2 innings. The Yankees desperately need Chamberlain to get consistent and become a reliable pitcher in the seventh inning.
Boone Logan has not looked good for the Yankees either, which is a big problem since he is their only lefty. Clay Rapada got released because he was injured and the Yankees had a tight squeeze on the 40 man roster. Logan allowed a big three-run home run to Prince Fielder on Friday that blew the game open and could not retire him again on Saturday either, allowing a single. He threw 80 innings last year, which you might think could be the reason for his struggles now, but his velocity is essentially the same as last year, so it might just be a slow start. Logan was very good last year, as lefties only hit .231/.293/.372/.665 against him, so he deserves the benefit of the doubt. If he continues to struggle the Yankees could call up Vidal Nuno, who lit it up spring training, but he is not on the 40 man roster.
Chamberlain and Logan are the two most important players that have to get going because they are the most proven and have the talent. The Yankees have often gotten in-season reinforcements in the bullpen that nobody saw coming, so that is always possible. David Phelps, who has also been bad, Adam Warren and Kelley all have minor league options available. The Yankees might want to consider sending Phelps or Warren down to be stretched out as a sixth starter if one of the starters gets injured.
Obviously, we are dealing with a small sample size, so this is nothing to go crazy over yet, but it is something to keep a close eye on. On some level everybody team’s middle relief is bad, since they are always the worst pitchers on a baseball team. Also, the starting pitchers pitching at least six innings is a good way to improve your middle relief, which has not been happening for the Yankees. This is a much better problem to have than having late inning issues or starting rotation issues because it is less important. However, if Rivera or Robertson were ever to get hurt than it would become a huge problem. The bullpen was supposed the be the biggest strength on the team and it needs to get turned around.
If you made a bet with someone that Andy Pettitte was going to be the first Yankees pitcher to lead the Yankees to victory, then congratulations. You’re correct. If you made a bet with someone that Mariano Rivera would come in the 9th inning and save the game as he’s done time and time again for the Yankees, then congratulations. You’re correct. Now, if you made a bet that a player like Robinson Cano would hit a HR before players like Brett Gardner and Francisco Cervelli, then you’d be wrong. As a matter of fact, a lot of people didn’t see those HR’s coming. In the end, the Yankees were able to shut the door on the Red Sox and avoid the sweep with a 4-2 victory.
Andy Pettitte pitched 8 innings of one run baseball before handing it over to his longtime teammate and friend Mariano Rivera to shut the door on the Red Sox. Rivera did give up a run, but that is easily overlooked because:
a) The Yankees won
b) It’s his final season
c) He’s Mariano Rivera.
The Yankees offense was supplied with a two run single by Lyle Overbay in the second, which plated both Travis Hafner and Eduardo Nunez. Brett Gardner followed with a solo home-run in the third and Francisco Cervelli hit his own in the seventh after the Red Sox scored their run off Pettitte to bring the lead back to three runs for the moment.
– Brett Gardner went 2-for-3 tonight with a home run, a walk and a great defensive catch. Eduardo Nunez went 2-for-3 tonight while flashing the leather. Francisco Cervelli was 1-for-2 with a HR and a walk. Andy Pettitte pitched 8 innings of one-run ball. Mariano Rivera received career save #609.
– Robinson Cano went 0-for-3 and now he’s batting .091. It’s a small sample size but that’s his average for the Red Sox series. Ichiro Suzuki went 0-for-3 and his average is .111. Again, it’s a small sample size.
When the baseball season starts, fans usually go to the ball park in order to take in nine innings of glorious baseball. As much as I enjoy going to the ball park to hear the crack of the bat, the fans cheering loudly and the food, I usually love going to the ball park in order to listen to the walk-up music of the Yankees. Music is one of my biggest passions, and to me the Yankees have done more than play great baseball over the years; they’ve also introduced me to new music and have filled up my iTunes with songs that I listen to on a consistent basis. Since Opening Day for the Yankees is tomorrow, I went on the Yankees website, found the list to some of the Yankees walk-up songs and took a listen to them, introducing myself to the different types of music that our players listen to.
1. Brennan Boesch: Brennan Boesch didn’t waste any time in choosing his songs for the 2013 season as he went and chose two songs for his walk-up music. The first song was “Sail” by Awolnation. When I first took a listen to the song, I found it intimidating in a good way. It’s not as intimidating as Evan Longoria‘s walk-up song (which is arguably one of the best walk-up songs in the Major Leagues), but it makes you think that something big is coming. The second song that Boesch chose was “We’ll Be Fine” by Drake. This is one of those songs that has you nodding your head while Boesch comes to the plate. Boesch hasn’t played a real game for the Yankees yet, but if I must applaud him on one thing, it’s his good taste in music.
2. Brett Gardner: I have to admit that before I started watching Gardner play baseball, I did not listen to country music; at all. But in 2011, Gardner had “Dirt Road Anthem” by Jason Aldean as one of his walk-up songs and ever since then, half my iTunes is consumed with country music. This year, Gardner went with “Hell On Wheels” by Brantely Gilbert which is another great country song. Now, let’s hope that Gardner’s 2013 season is as dynamite as his walk-up song choice.
3. Chris Stewart: Chris Stewart is close to having one of the best walk-up songs on the Yankees if he only played the first twenty seconds of the song over the P.A. Stewart’s song choice is “Forsaken” by Skillet and if there’s one thing I must say, is that the guitar riffs were amazing. I wouldn’t normally listen to music like this, but after today now I would. Now, all he has to do is play on a consistent basis so I could heart this song over and over at the ball park. I wouldn’t mind paying money for that.
4. Curtis Granderson: We all remember the famous video where Curtis Granderson was picking his at-bat music and then almost cried when he chose “Friday.” Well, maybe all those hours of going through his laptop did the Grandy Man some good. His walk-up song (when he comes back) is none other than “Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Can See (Instrumental)” by Busta Rhymes. Not too fond of the lyrics, but I do love the beat, so a smart move by Granderson in just using the instrumental.
5. David Robertson: We all know that David Robertson is an Alabama boy. He was born in Tuscaloosa and he is constantly helping his hometown with High Socks For Hope. So it doesn’t surprise me that his walk-up song is the awesome “Sweet Home Alabama” by Lynyrd Skynyrd. It’s actually a good thing I know about this now because I made a deadly mistake in asking my Twitter followers last season what D-Rob’s walk-up song was. Let’s just say they weren’t too happy with me during the game when they found out I seriously didn’t know. Well, I know now and it’s an awesome song. I’m looking forward to the 8th inning where I could sit back and listen to the tune that introduces us to the Yankees favorite set-up man.
6. Derek Jeter: The Captain won’t be there on Opening Day for us to hear his walk-up music but he made sure that he chose a song. I’m not too fond of rap music but, “Otis” by Jay-Z and Kanye West was a decent choice by Jeter. It would be nice to hear it at Yankee Stadium when The Captain returns, but in the meantime I guess the closest we can hear this song is on Youtube (and on iTunes if you have it already).
7. Hiroki Kuroda: Hiroki Kuroda has some great taste in music! Kuroda’s walk-up music is “The Whip” by Locksley and when I heard it for the first time, I heard some influence of ‘The Beatles’ in the chorus of the song. It’s nice that Kuroda was able to take us back to the good music–without actually taking us all the way back to the 1960′s.
8. Ivan Nova: Ah, is there nothing better than listening to some awesome Spanish music at Yankee Stadium? That’s what Ivan Nova introduced to the fans when he made his walk-up choice “Marta La Reina” by Antony Santos. This is one of those songs where you can’t help but get up from your seat and start dancing. According to the Yankees website, I don’t think it’s available for purchase but they have the song on Youtube where you can hear it over and over and over. It’s actually a great song to hear on a Sunday morning (with your headphones on).
9. Mariano Rivera: Mariano Rivera’s song choice is as fitting as his role on the Yankees. When the Yankees have a lead and they go to the 9th inning, Mariano Rivera comes in the game and puts it to bed, dubbing him “The Sandman.” Rivera’s song choice is the best song choice by far on the Yankees with “Enter Sandman” by Metallica. The guitar riffs in the song are simply amazing and when Yankees fans hear it, they can’t help but get excited, knowing that the greatest closer of all time is coming in to make the opposing team’s offense go to sleep. Yankees fans better soak in all of “Enter Sandman” that they can this season, since Rivera plans on retiring at the end of the season. I know I’ll soak up every moment.
10. Mark Teixeira: If there’s anyone that we can count on to take us back to when rap music was at it’s best, it’s Mark Teixeira. His song choice “It’s Tricky” by Run D.M.C is a great way to pay a homage to rap at it’s finest. Of course, we expect nothing less of Teixeira since he has been famously known of using classics from the Twisted Sisters in the past. But Teixeira didn’t stop there. His second song choice was “This Town” by O.A.R. which is one of my favorite songs. Teixeira hit a home run with his song choices and I can’t wait until he gets back on the field so we can hear it blaring from the P.A speakers.
11. Phil Hughes: Phil Hughes’s walk-up song is pretty vague. There’s no artist next to his song choice ”Tomorrowland” so I did a search on Youtube and it sounds more like Hughes is ready for summer in a club than ready to play baseball. If this is his song, I’m not too fond of the techno-beat, but I can see it getting fans excited.
12. Robinson Cano: Robinson Cano simply outdid everyone when it came to choosing songs. He didn’t choose two songs, he went the extra mile and chose three! His first song was “El Que No Aguante La Presion” by Secreto El Biberon which is a great song choice. It reminds me of summer like Hughes’s song choice, but Cano’s song reminds me more of running through fire hydrants that have water coming out of them than the club. Cano’s second song choice was “Me Kitee” by Black Point. Again, it reminded me of summer. Cano’s last song was “Te Prendo” by Chimbala. As far as Spanish songs go, all three of Cano’s song choices hit it out of the ball park. Simply great. If his goal was to get Yankees fans on their feet while he comes to bat, he succeeded.
13. Vernon Wells: I’m not a fan of rap music, but if you choose a song with Dr. Dre and Eminem, then you are in my good graces for the entire season. And that’s exactly what Vernon Wells did by choosing “Forgot About Dre” by Dr. Dre & Eminem. The beat is fantastic and this was when rap was still at it is greatest. It’s great that someone chose a throwback song, and now I will await his arrival to the plate just to hear this awesome song.
The Yankees choosing their own walk-up music is a way for them to connect to their fans. It shows fans what kind of music their idols like and in their own way, they introduce you to music you may have never heard of before. The Yankees are always winners in the fans eyes, but they’ve become more than. They’re role models with impeccable taste in music. So the next time you go to the ball park, open your ears when your favorite Yankee goes to the plate. You just might have a new favorite song that you’ll want as soon as you get home.
In a little less than three weeks, the Yankees will begin their home-opener against the Boston Red Sox with CC Sabathia on the mound. However, this year’s Opening Day lineup might be a little different than what we’re used to due to all of the injuries the Yankees were plagued with during the 2013 season. The Yankees are missing Curtis Granderson (broken forearm), Mark Teixeira (strained forearm) and Alex Rodriguez (hip surgery) in their offense which is sure to look like the ‘Robinson Cano Show’ for the first month and a half. But with still some time to go, just how are the Yankees shaping up as they prepare for the season?
The Yankees lineup has many question marks after losing so many players to free agency and injuries. The bats of Nick Swisher, Russell Martin, Raul Ibanez and Eric Chavez will be with different ball clubs, while we will most likely have to wait for Mark Teixeira and Curtis Granderson to return to their post in early to mid-May. However, the lineup hasn’t looked as puzzling as it did when Spring Training started. The Yankees proved that they can manufacture runs by using a key element that they possess: speed. Players like Brett Gardner, Ichiro Suzuki and Eduardo Nunez are capable of getting on base, going station to station on their own before a key teammate has to drive them in with an RBI. Speed will play an important part this season since the Yankees have lost over 100 home runs than in season’s past. But just because the Yankees are relying on speed, it doesn’t mean we should start calling them the ‘Bronx Bunters’. They will still find a way to hit home runs with Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira making their way back into the starting lineup.
Throughout the course of Spring Training, the starting pitching has been one early glimpse of how our starters will perform during the 2013 season. It looks as if they left off from last season. Hiroki Kuroda looks to be in mid-season form, David Phelps has a 0.63 ERA 14 Spring appearances Ivan Nova has an ERA of 1. Andy Pettitte has still proven that his pitches are effective although he’s the oldest starting pitcher in Major League Baseball. And as expected, there is no concern over CC Sabathia, whatsoever. The starting pitching looks to be one of the Yankees strong points like it was in season’s past. Let’s hope that the pitching can carry the Yanks this season.
The Yankees bullpen was another one of their key pieces that helped define the Yankees last season. With pitchers such as David Robertson, Boone Logan, Clay Rapada and Joba Chamberlain, it seemed like an easy task to get the ball to the 9th inning before handing it off to the greatest closer of all time, Mariano Rivera. Last season’s bullpen dynamic was different since there was no Mariano in the bullpen due to an ACL injury, giving the Yankees a glimpse of what it would look like if Mariano Rivera wasn’t there. With Rafael Soriano, the Yankees were able to still close games with a dominant force but this year there is no Rafael Soriano. Mariano Rivera plans to retire after the 2013 season, which gives Yankees fans one last look of the greatest closer before he hangs up his cleats and says goodbye to the game. The bullpen is expected to be a strong part of the Yankees once again, and from Spring observations, I wouldn’t be surprised if Shawn Kelley and David Phelps get spots in the bullpen. With both of their arms this spring, the Yankees bullpen could become an iron gate to prevent runs from scoring.
There’s only 17 days until Opening Day so from now until Spring Training is over, it would be a good time to start watching the games to see who has a legitimate shot of making the team. And from what I’ve seen all Spring so far, there are quite a few who have a chance to go north.
When the press conference started at 10:00 a.m, Mariano Rivera started off the conference by joking thanks to Brian Cashman, he was able to get a two-year extension for the 2014 and 2015 season, even saying that it was out of the norm for the Yankees organization to make extensions during the year. However, his emotions turned serious when he said that after the 2013 season, the greatest closer would announce that he was retiring after the season ended.
From Brian Cashman, Hal Steinbrenner, the entire Yankees roster to his family, they each filled their seats in order to hear the iconic closer, begin his swan song, saying that although it was a difficult decision, the time to retire was now.
The factoring decision was there was only a little bit left in his tank, and he would use every “bullet” he had left this season. He got tired of the constant traveling, the hotel rooms but he would put his tiredness aside when it came time to get on the diamond and close games. The situation was different last season as Mariano tore his ACL and was sidelined for the rest of the 2012 season. He did say that if he didn’t have the injury, then he would have retired but of course a prideful Mariano Rivera wouldn’t have wanted to go out on a low note.
He thought of his teammates Andy Pettitte and Derek Jeter as his brothers, and even told his teammates to cherish every moment they have on the diamond together. He also said it’s not a sad time for him, and he thanks God for allowing him to play America’s favorite past time.
Players had their thoughts on Mariano Rivera retiring, but one player that stood out was Rivera’s teammate for so many years; retired catcher, Jorge Posada. Posada released a statement about Mariano Rivera retiring:
“There is only one Mariano Rivera. There won’t be another person who will come along and do what he did. No one does it like him. It was an honor to catch him and play alongside him for as long as I did. He made my job as a catcher so much easier. Mariano is a special person and obviously a special player.
“I’m so happy he is going out on his terms. Now every time he steps into a ballpark this year, teams and fans can celebrate and appreciate what he has meant to this great game we play.”
But just because Mo plans to retire after the season, don’t expect him to pull an “Andy Pettitte” and come back after retiring. For him, for the greatest closer…this is it. It’s Mariano’s personal 9th inning, and at the end of the season it will be Game Over for the sports greatest closer…forever.
The worst fear for Yankees fans is finally happening: Mariano Rivera is retiring after the 2013 season. He is set to formally announce his retirement on Saturday. Rivera, who is dubbed the “Best Closer in Baseball” will spend one last summer traveling and playing baseball, in hopes of winning his 28th World Series Championship with the Yankees.
Emotions are mixed. Some are fine with letting Mo finally hang up his cleats while some who have only seen Mo pitch in the closer role for their young lives will have trouble letting go. I’ll admit, I am one of those fans who will have trouble letting go of Mo.
When fans visit Yankee Stadium and the team leads and it’s the 9th inning, fans anticipate hearing Metallica’s “Enter Sandman”, knowing a legend will emerge from the bullpen. Once Mo would get on the mound, that would be it. Game over for the other team.
For the past couple of seasons, I’ve joked around saying Mariano Rivera would drink from the fountain of youth, joking that he would never age and that he could pitch as the Yankees closer well into his fifties. But today, Mo proved to us that he is human and that all good things must unfortunately come to an end.
Mariano had been a staple of five World Series Championships: 1996, 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2009. He’s known as one-fourth of the “Core Four” sharing that same title with fellow teammates Andy Pettitte, Derek Jeter and recent retiree Jorge Posada. He gives fans hope, he gives the fans consistency and in return he has earned every baseball fan’s respect. Whether they’re a Boston Red Sox fan, a Philadelphia Phillies fan, a New York Mets fan or a San Francisco Giants fan. Mariano has the respect of everyone around him. He’s the lead example of class, he’s adored and he will be terribly missed once he hangs up his cleats for one final time.
I’ve had the joy and the pleasure of watching Mariano Rivera pitch over the years which is why it’s hard for me to cope with the fact that in 8 months it would be time to say goodbye for one final time to the best closer in baseball. But when it’s time to ‘Exit Sandman’, there won’t be a dry eye in the house, and Yankees fans will be grateful of everything he’s done for us. And for as long as we live, we will never ever forget him.
Turning 39 years old this June, Derek Jeter has re-iterated over the past few years that age is simply just a number to him and the rest of his veteran teammates.
Of course, most baseball minds have thought otherwise, saying as they have in prior offseasons that this upcoming season will be the season the old guard finally breaks down and prevents the Yankees from making the playoffs.
“I’ve heard it before,” Jeter told the New York Post in response to the skepticism. “Regardless of how old anyone is, it’s our job to come here and be ready to play and help us compete. We’ve been able to do that pretty successfully over the years. Our plans don’t change.”
It’s definitely great to hear The Captain having that mindset, and he’s right. With the old age and doubt at its highest, the Yanks have won consecutive division titles and made two ALCS appearances in three years. Mind you, the reason there was even a chance for a pennant last October was thanks to a 40-year old carrying the team on his back in the late innings – Raul Ibanez.
So whether it’s the experience factor, fate, plain luck, or some other reason, time nor age has phased this Yankees team. They have remained just as big a threat to win the World Series as they were when Robinson Cano was a teenager in the late nineties.
Without saying its a problem, however, the oldest guys on the roster must do the un-expected once again to keep the Yanks at the top of the American League’s totem pole.
That may have been stating the obvious, but the team is definitely centered around a group of extraordinary, extra-old veterans who somehow have kept up with the rest of MLB over the past decade. Jeter (38), Andy Pettitte (40), Hiroki Kuroda (38), Ichiro Suzuki (39), and Mariano Rivera (43) are absolutely essential parts of this year’s ball-club. As I said, it’s not too often players their age are still in the game, let alone performing at a high level.
Now is it fair to doubt them, with all they’ve done in each of their careers? No. But people will, and have some reason to do so. To think that these players can lead the team through a six-month season and still have it in them to keep it up [hopefully] in October is a lot to ask. It’s not impossible, but I wouldn’t consider it the most likely scenario.
I refuse to say this will be the year the Yankees’ age finally catches up to them, as each year in thinking that they surprise me and win the division. They are not too old to compete, but we’ve seen in the past few seasons the team dominating in the regular season, and just running out of gas come October. Things could change between now and September, but a realistic take on the 2013 Yankees is that they have the talent to return to the postseason. But their efforts to win in the postseason may again derail their quest for a 28th title.
That’s how long it had been since Mariano Rivera faced live batters until throwing a batting practice session yesterday. On April 30, 2012 Mo picked up his fifth save of the season in a 2-1 victory over Baltimore at the Stadium. Three days later he tore his ACL shagging flies in Kansas City. The 20-pitch effort is a small body of work, but Rivera was optimistic afterwards saying to MLB.com’s Adam Berry, “[It was] the first BP that I threw in almost a year, so I’m real happy with the results. It will get better. The longer I keep throwing, it will get better… It’s good, man. I feel real good. I feel real good with the results.”
Others at Yankee camp voiced similar optimism after witnessing the Sandman take the mound. Manager Joe Girardi said he looked “like what you expect him to look like, which is a good thing. Delivery, the ball movement, the strikes he’s throwing, he’s throwing it where he wants to, not taking a lot of time in between pitches — he looked normal to me.” Jorge Posada may have spoken the four most prolific words of spring training when he said, “The cutter’s still cutting.”
Rivera’s outlook has remained entirely positive since first throwing a bullpen session on February 13th. After that 25-pitch performance in front of some 40 reporters, Newsday’s David Lennon quoted Mo at a press conference saying he was a “9 out of 10″ and would be a 10 by the start of the season. During his entire time in Tampa Mo has reported feeling no discomfort, has not appeared to be favoring his left knee at all, and by all accounts seems to be back to his old self, right down to his pinpoint accuracy.
For those of us who have watched Mariano during his 17-year, Hall of Fame career the positive news is what we were hoping for last May, but were not sure was possible. Seeing him writhing on the warning track in pain was almost more than we could bear, because if you’ve watched Mariano for any amount of time, you become a fan not only of his supreme talent but of who he is as a person. There is simply not a classier player in baseball. While a cold-blooded assassin on the mound, Mo is a humble and quiet man off of it, always ready to deflect praise to God or his teammates. He has built churches both in his native Panama and locally in New Rochelle and has given back in a myriad ways through his Rivera Foundation.
We wanted him to come back healthy not just for the service of his beguiling cutter, but because hurting his knee while shagging flies would have been a far too ignominious end for one of the best players and people in baseball history. For those of us that are fans of Mariano, beyond our own selfishness to have the best closer in baseball back in the bullpen, we simply wanted him to be able to go out on his own terms. If the early reports from Tampa hold true it appears he will be able to do that, if only for one Mo go around.
The main event for the Yankees today was the bullpen pitching, provided by none other than Andy Pettitte, CC Sabathia and Mariano Rivera. Rivera threw his second official bullpen of the Spring, and feeling more and more comfortable on the mound.
“There’s no piece of mind when I say ‘OK, I feel good now.” Rivera said. “No, I knew the job that I put in during the whole year, it’s been a hard job and I always tell you guys I trust myself. I trust God first, then I trust myself. I’m capable to do this. I was expecting this, it feels good. I feel good.”
So what would be the biggest test for Rivera as he gets ready for the season while wearing a knee brace?
“Bunting. Comeback liners. Cover first. All that stuff. You can’t think, you have to react.” Rivera said. “That will be, what I think, the biggest test.”
CC Sabathia is also coming back from surgery, and hopes to make all his starts while staying healthy.
“After the season I had last year, being on the DL a couple of times, getting a little older, I just want to concentrate on staying healthy.” Sabathia said. “Any kind of numbers I feel will be there if I’m healthy, so that’s the only thing I’m worried about.”
– Francisco Cervelli has confirmed that he will not play in the World Baseball Classic for Team Italy and made sure that he let the manager know.
“I talked to the manager a couple of days ago, and he understood the situation.”
So what was the situation? Apparently, Cervelli wants to win the catching job with the Yankees in Spring Training.
“This is what I’ve been waiting for.”
– In…interesting…news, Joba Chamberlain has been reportedly been acting a little–out there at camp today. According to Bryan Hoch, he got into a laundry cart and asked Boone Logan to push him in it. That just shows that 1) Chamberlain has an awesome child-like imagination and 2) it’s not all work and no play with that guy.
– Even the manager of the Yankees has to get in some Spring Training workouts this season. After workouts were finished, Joe Girardi spent time doing batting practice with his son Dante, warming up his catching arm. I wonder if Girardi is considering the role of ‘emergency catcher’ this season. I think he still has some game in him.
Day two of Spring Training has come to an end and there were interviews from three different Yankees: Francisco Cervelli, Andy Pettitte and of course Mariano Rivera. Let’s cover Francisco Cervelli first and then go from there.
As we all know, Cervelli’s names were handwritten on the Biogenesis report which meant that Cervelli at least visited the Miami clinic after his foot injury.
“When I got my foot injured in 2011, I checked with doctors and someone recommended me Biogenesis. I went there for maybe suggestions, and that’s it. I walked away without nothing in my hands. I just went there and talked, that’s it.” Cervelli said during the 11 minute press conference.
“Right now, I realize that it was a mistake to go there, but it already happened so what can I do?”
Cervelli wouldn’t say who recommended him to go to the Miami clinic but he did say that it wasn’t a player (and it wasn’t Alex Rodriguez). Cervelli went to Biogenesis once and he met with Anthony Bosch during that one visit.
“Sometimes when we’ve got injuries, we get a little desperate to come back quick and we always want a second opinion. I went there. Someone told me. I take my responsibility. Nobody put a gun to my head to go there. And that’s it.”
Now, let’s move on to a non-controversial topic: Andy Pettitte. Pettitte threw a bullpen session today and then met with the media about how he’s feeling along with if he plans to retire in 2014.
“I feel like I’m better than I am at age 30. Heck, I want to win 20 games. That’s it.” Pettitte said during his 11 minute press conference. Joe Girardi even spoke about Pettitte during another press conference this morning in Tampa.
On the topic of whether Pettitte will retire in 2014, Girardi said “I think Andy still loves to compete.” To be honest, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Andy Pettitte return in 2014. That’s a true competitor right there.
And last but definitely not least, everyone’s favorite closer: Mariano Rivera. Mariano Rivera said that he made a decision on whether or not he will pitch next season–but he’s not telling anyone just yet. However, he did say that he was going to reveal whether he planned to retire or not before the season begins.
“You guys have been patient enough.” Rivera said during his press conference. When it came to rating how his knee was doing, he said it was a 9 out of 10 but by the time Opening Day rolls around, Rivera plans to feel 100%. He’s doing agility drills and threw a bullpen session his first day of camp, which is out of the norm for Rivera since he doesn’t throw bullpen sessions his first day.
Now, the main question that came from Rivera’s press conference: will he shag fly balls this season even though he tore his ACL doing what he loved last season? Yes. He will. He will just have to be careful about it when he’s in the outfield. It didn’t take much convincing for Joe GIrardi to let him shag again.
“I don’t want to take it away from him.” That’s the verdict from Girardi–but with one small, tiny exception. “Just not in Kansas City.”
Courtesy of Bryan Hoch from MLB.com, here are some pictures from today’s Spring Training’s events:
As the offseason winds down, aside from the Alex Rodriguez drama and the small signings of Matt Diaz, Kevin Youkilis and Juan Rivera, the Yankees seem to be almost the exact same team as in 2012 minus a few losses. Nick Swisher packed his bags and went to the Cleveland Indians, Russell Martin did the same and rejoined former Yankees teammate A.J Burnett with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Raul Ibanez decided to take his bat to Seattle where he could end his career on a good note and Andruw Jones went to Japan, one of the few loses the Yankees won’t mind at all. However, as the 2013 season comes upon us, the Yankees look as if they hadn’t done much on the market. The 2013 team has been predicted by multiple fans that they will finish from either 2nd place – 4th place in the AL East.
The Yankees may look like the same old Yankees as the 2012 season, but there’s one small detail that the Yankees completely missed: some of the players that are ready to play this season, weren’t available last season due to injury or health issues. Some of the big names on the team spent quite some time on the DL and the reason that the Yankees didn’t make a deal with other players, is because they believe there’s someone on the team that can do the job better than someone on the market.
Brett Gardner – OF
Last season looked very promising for Brett Gardner. Once April came around, he was hot right off the bat. He looked as if he was going to bounce back from his so-so 2011 season–until injury struck. Gardner was unsure what was going on with his elbow. At first he went on the DL believing that 15 days later, he would be back to help the team. Once he started to swing a bat again, he felt the pain again. The Yankees tried to rehab him for a third time and he still felt pain in his elbow. A concerned Gardner was then sent to a surgeon to see if there was something wrong with his elbow. Alas, the young outfielder once again needed surgery. Gardner is now back for the 2013 season and this time he’s healthy. In the 2010 season, he proved that he was a starter, but his most impressive stat was his stolen base numbers. Although his hitting was down in 2011, Gardner outdid his stolen base numbers from 2010, going from 47-49. A healthy Brett Gardner can steal bases, is the only Yankee that truly knows how to play small ball and can work the count with his impressive patience at the plate. No need for Michael Bourn. Brett Gardner is already an upgrade from what’s on the market.
Spring Training is only a little bit over two weeks away and that usually brings about optimism for every baseball fan. There has not been a lot of reason for optimism for Yankees fans this winter. Ownership has not allowed Brian Cashman to spend freely, due to the mandate of getting the payroll under $189 million by 2014. This has led to very little activity from the Yankees this offseason. They have seen other teams in the American League get better like the Angels and Blue Jays. While the pessimism is certainly justified, it is not all doom and gloom for the Yankees. While the Angels and Tigers are a step above them right now, the Yankees should still have a solid team. Toronto is the favorite in the AL East right now, but it certainly is not impossible for the Yankees to win the division. Here are the five most important players for the Yankees to have a successful year this season:
1. Mark Teixeira- While Mark Teixeira has performed like a very good player over the last three years with the Yankees, he has not been the superstar that they were hoping for and that he was in 2009. The Yankees will be counting on Teixeira to bat cleanup and provide protection for Robinson Cano. That means an .OPS in the low .800’s and a batting average around .250 isn’t going to cut it. The Yankees need his OPS back around .900 and his average around .270 or .280. Teixeira is the Yankees’ only power threat from the right side and they need him to produce. Power won’t be the issue as Teixeira has hit close to 40 home runs even in his down seasons. If the Yankees can get anything close to the 2009 version of Teixiera him and Cano would be one of the best 3-4 duo’s in MLB.
2. Curtis Granderson- Curtis Granderson is in a similar situation as Teixeira. While he hasn’t had the career success that Teixeira has had, Granderson needs to get back to his 2011 season like Teixeira needs to get back to his 2009 form. There is a ton of pressure on Granderson this season because the Yankees did not go and add another bat for the 5th spot in the lineup. Justin Upton or Michael Morse would have been perfect, but obviously the Yankees did not acquire either of them. So, the Yankees will be counting on Granderson to return to his 2011 form. Granderson hit 43 home runs last season, but his line of .232/.319/.492/.811 was simply not good enough. Worst of all, he had an egregious 28.5 K% and looked completely lost at the end of the year. Kevin Long will need to work his magic on Granderson again for the 2013 season.
3. Mariano Rivera- The biggest strength the Yankees have right now is their bullpen. David Robertson, Joba Chamberlian, David Aardsma, Boone Logan and Clay Rapada make up a very solid middle relief core. There is one question about the bullpen Can Mariano Rivera be the Mariano Rivera that we know him to be at age 43 coming off a torn ACL and meniscus? Even for the immortal Rivera it is a legitimate question. If Rivera is injured or ineffective, the Yankees would still have a good bullpen, but probably not an elite one like they do if Rivera is his dominant self. However, I will never bet against Rivera, so I expect him to be just fine.
4. Brett Gardner- The Yankees sorely missed Brett Gardner last season, as a wrist injury in April caused him to miss most of the 2012 season. Gardner, the only Yankees regular starter under 30, will be a key piece for the Yankees this season. Last season, New York’s left fielders hit .253/.315/.444/.759. They largely depended on the power of Raul Ibanez. While Gardner won’t provide that, he will provide many other good qualities. Gardner will provide great patience at the plate, as his career walk percentage (11.0%) and pitches per plate appearance (4.29) are extremely good. Gardner will be huge on the base paths, as he has stolen 47 and 49 bases in his last two healthy seasons. His defense in left field is probably the best in MLB. While we know his defense and base running will be great, his hitting is still a question mark. His career line of .266/.355/.368/.723 is only OK for a non power hitter. Also, he has been poor against lefties for his career (.256/.362/.355/.731). For the Yankees to be an elite offense, they will need Gardner to have a close to .290 average at least. He has never done that in his career, but at age 29 Gardner should be peaking.
5. Phil Hughes- Like the bullpen, the rotation is a strength of the Yankees. CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda form a very solid top of the rotation and Phil Hughes is a little bit of a wild card. Hughes overcame a rough April to have a solid season. He improved on his slider and changeup to help put more hitters away. This helped him to strikeout 7.8 per nine innings and only walk 2.2 per nine innings. Hughes is in a contract year, so he should be motivated to have a great season, as he can cash in big at the end of the year. From June through August, Hughes had a 3.19 ERA. If he can pitch even close to that for the whole 2013 season the Yankees will have a dominant rotation.