Gotta go to Mo for World Series security

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Witnessing one bullpen failure after another in the playoffs makes baseball fans, especially Yankee fans, appreciate the great Mariano Rivera all the more.

Year after year, Rivera, pictured above with Jorge Posada and Scott Brosius after saving the final game of the 1999 World Series, compiled a post-season resume that is unrivaled in baseball history. In 96 playoff games and 141 innings, Mariano had a 0.70 ERA. He had 42 saves (same as his number) in 47 opportunities. Sure Mo blew a few – most notably against Arizona in the 2001 World Series in Game 7 and two games against Boston in the fabled ALCS 3-0 comeback. He was human.

That 0.70 ERA is the best all-time in MLB playoff history, ahead of such luminaries as Sandy Koufax, Christy Mathewson and Babe Ruth. And the 42 saves is more than twice as many as the runner-up, Brad Lidge.

Here’s another stat – Rivera allowed exactly two home runs in post-season, none after Jay Peyton took him deep in the 2000 World Series with the Mets. Heck, Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen has given up as many homers in this World Series alone.

Trivia Answer

Name the only franchise to win both American and National League pennants? It’s the Houston Astros of course. They Astros won the National League pennant but were swept by the White Sox in the  2005 World Series. And this year they were American League champs.

Next Yankee Manager

If the Yanks continue their Joe trend, then third base coach Joe Espada will be named the next manager, succeeding Joe Girardi. Girardi won one World Series in 10 years. He took over from Joe Torre, who won four World Series in 12 years. And another Joe – McCarthy – managed the Yankees for 16 years between 1931 and 1946, winning a franchise best 1460  games and seven World Series.

Going out on a limb here, and tabbing Al Pedrique as a dark horse candidate for the next Yankee manager. Pedrique has been successful managing the Yankees Triple A affiliate Scranton, and has groomed many of the young Yankee stars, including Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez. Greg Bird, Luis Severino and more.

Old School Baseball

Game One of the 2017 World Series ran just two hours and 28 minutes, the quickest playoff game in more than 20 years. The game  brought back memories of the old days, when games typically ran two hours, sometimes less.

As a kid, I used to go to Sunday doubleheaders at Yankee Stadium, and most times be home before dinner. And the price was right – $1.50 to sit in the upper deck, half price with a high school card. Two games for 75 cents. Top that.


Clueless Joe costs the Yankees a playoff win

girardiYankees manager Joe Girardi, who has a habit of over-managing, suddenly decided to under-manage at the most critical point of the season. It cost the Yanks a playoff game.

Everything was going so well for the Yankees in Game 2 of the ALDS against Cleveland. They had knocked out Indians’ starter Corey Kluber, the likely AL Cy Young Award winner, en route to an 8-3 lead in the sixth inning.

With two outs and two men on base, New York’s Chad Green hit Cleveland’s Lonnie Chisenhall with an 0-2 pitch. Or did he? Catcher Gary Sanchez, who caught the ball, yelled “Foul!” and looked over at the Yankee dugout.

Chisenhall never reacted to the pitch, something a player would normally do if hit in the hand by a 95-mph fastball. Instead he sheepishly trotted down to first base.

Replays clearly showed the ball did not hit Chishenhall’s hand, but rather the knob of the bat. “There was nothing that told us that he was not hit by the pitch,” Girardi said after the Yankees lost 9-8 in 13 inning to fall behind two games in the best-of-five series. “By the time we got the super slow-mo, we are beyond a minute. It was too late. They tell us we have 30 seconds.”

Seriously. Why not challenge? If you win, it’s a strikeout and the inning is over. It’s an extremely low-risk, high-reward proposition. It’s already the sixth inning, and the Yankees had two challenges remaining. If the ruling on the field is overturned, the inning is over. If not, at least it was reviewed.

Instead play continued, and Francisco Lindor promptly hit a grand slam to get the Indians right back in the game.

Excuses, excuses

Compounding the issue, Girardi later claimed he didn’t want to stop play and upset Green’s rhythm.

“I think about the rhythm and never want to take a pitcher out of rhythm and have them stand over there to tell me he wasn’t hit,” Girardi said.

Fess up Girardi, you messed up. Admit it and move on. That excuse might fly in some cities, but not in New York.

Ten years ago, almost to the day, the Yankees suffered a similar heartbreaking ALDS loss to the Indians in Cleveland. That night another Joe – Joe Torre – failed to ask for a stoppage of play when a swarm of midges appeared on the field as reliever Joba Chamberlain was trying to pitch.

Torre later admitted that he should have called time. That indecision eventually cost Torre his job. He was replaced by – you guessed it – Joe Girardi.

It doesn’t appear that Girardi will lose his job as a result of his non-challenge. But this promises to go down as one of the more boneheaded managerial decisions in Yankee postseason history.

Social media lit up after the game. Giradi’s legacy, along with the Yankees playoff aspirations, certainly took a hit last night.

You below it Clueless Joe, you blew it.


It’s getting crowded in Monument Park

This weekend, the Yankees will honor Tino Martinez by dedicating a plaque in his honor in Yankee Stadium’s Monument Park. Later this summer, Paul O’Neill will get his plaque.

No disrespect to Constantino, shown at right, and the Warrior, who were key components of the Yankee teams that won four World Series in five years between 1996 and 2000. But there are plenty of other Yankees who are long overdue this honor.

What about Yankee Hall of Famers? Goose Gossage will be getting a plaque this weekend as well. But the Yankees have never recognized old timers like Jack Chesbro and Wee Willie Keeler, pitchers Waite Hoyt, Herb Pennock and Catfish Hunter, and hitters like Tony Lazzeri, Earl Coombs, Johnny Mize and Dave Winfield, to name a few. All are enshrined in Cooperstown, yet none have made the Yankees Monument Park Hall of Fame.

Tommy Henrich and Charlie Keller are certainly worthy of consideration. Each man was on more World Series winners than Martinez or O’Neill. So were Joe Collins, Charlie Silvera, Hank Bauer, Gene Woodling, Gil McDougald, Vic Raschi, Eddie Lopat and Frank Crosetti. Yet you won’t find any of them on the hallowed walls of Monument Park.

More recent Yankees like Bobby Murcer, Willie Randolph and Graig Nettles never made the big wall in the Bronx. Nor did four-time champions Bernie Williams and David Cone.

MVP Joe Gordon (1942) and Cy Young Award winners Bob Turley (1958) and Sparky Lyle (1977) have never had plaques bestowed upon them either. (As for Roger Clemens and Alez Rodriguez, let’s not go there.)

The Yankees will retire Joe Torre’s #6 on August 23, with Derek Jeter’s #2 to follow inevitably, meaning no Yankee will ever wear a single digit number again.

Martinez and O’Neill were great Yankees who wore the pinstripes with pride and produced champions. But they’re two guys on a long, crowded list of great Yankees.


If Kentucky wins, the Yankees will march

 

If Kentucky wins the NCAAs, you can count on a Yankee parade down Broadway this fall.

The last six times Kentucky has won the NCAA men’s basketball title, the Yankees have gone on to win the World Series.

The Wildcats have won seven titles overall, second only to UCLA’s 11 and by far the most of any team in this year’s Final Four. Kansas has taken three, Louisville two and Ohio State one.

Kentucky won its first championship in 1948, the year the Cleveland Indians beat the Boston Braves to win their last World Series.

Kentucky repeated in 1949, beating Oklahoma State in the final, under the tutelage of  immortal coach Adolph Rupp, the “Baron of the Bluegrass.”

Rupp, fourth all-time with 876 victories, would go on to win in 1951 (against Kansas State) and 1958 (against Seattle) for a total of four championships.

Meanwhile the Yankees were winning five World Series in a row between 1949 and 1953 under another legendary leader, Casey Stengel. In 1958, the Yankees rallied from a 3-1 deficit to beat the Milwaukee Braves.

It took Kentucky 20 years to return to the mountaintop, when coach Joe B. Hall’s Wildcats defeated Duke for the 1978 national championship. That fall, the Yankees rallied to knock off the Red Sox on Bucky Dent’s home run, then repeated against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Rick Pitino, now the head coach at Louisville (which meets Kentucky in a Final Four intra-state rivalry on Saturday), coached the Wildcats to the NCAA title in 1996. Two years later, coach Tubby Smith guided Kentucky to its last championship, against Utah.

Meanwhile, Joe Torre piloted the Yankees to World Series wins in 1996 (vs. the Braves) and 1998 (vs. the Padres).

Of the other Final Four finalists, Kansas won its first championship in 1952, followed by a Yankee win over the Dodgers. Ohio State’s only title occurred in 1960, the year the Yankees lost the Series to Bill Mazeroski and the Pirates. And although the Yankees didn’t win the World Series following Louisville’s 1986 title run, the Mets did.

Kentucky is heavily favored to cut down the nets Monday night. And if they do, the Yankees can start planning a parade down Broadway


By George, Yanks for the Memories

Never got to meet George Steinbrenner, never got to shake his hand. But like so many other Yankee fans, I wish I had the opportunity to thank The Boss before he passed on. Thank him for making baseball important once more in New York, and for making the Yankees a winner again.

George Steinbrenner saved the New York Yankees. When a group of businessmen led by Steinbrenner purchased the Yankees on January 3, 1973, for a net price of $8.7 million, the once-proud franchise was floundering. Attendance was down, Yankee Stadium was falling apart, and the team hadn’t won a World Series since 1962.

The Yankees were a bottom feeder in the American League East in those days, a baseball laughingstock. Think Horace Clarke and Dooley Womack.

At first George said he would be a silent owner, that in his words he would not “be active in the day-to-day operations of the club at all.” That lasted for a New York minute. Before long, Steinbrenner promised he would bring the Yankees back to prominence.

Steinbrenner brought in a number of heralded players at the dawn of free agency, most notably Catfish Hunter and Reggie Jackson. He refurbished Yankee Stadium. And within four years, the Yankees were back on top, winning the World Series in 1977 and repeating in 1978.

Moose Skowron, a Yankee first baseman in the 50s and early 60s, perhaps summed it up best: “This man wants to win, and I respect him for that. Who the hell wants to be a loser.”

Serious Business
Some owners were hobbyists, but for George Steinbrenner ownership was serious baseball business.

Sometimes too serious. George wanted to win, but for a time in the 80s and early 90s his competitive instincts got the best of him. The Yankees endured an 18-year championship drought following the 1978 World Series, and failed to make a single playoff appearance between 1981 and 1995.

Then came 1996 and a surprising World Series triumph over the Atlanta Braves, followed by three straight World Championships from 1998-2000. That 1998 team with manager Joe Torre, Derek Jeter and the rest of the Core Four won 125 games and ranks amongst the greatest in baseball history.

And of course last year the Yankees opened their beautiful new Stadium — the Home Office — and capped the season with their 27th Championship, most of any North American pro sports franchise.

Two Personalities
In retrospect, it’s almost like two George Steinbrenners owned the Yankees, two  different personalities. The first was the tyrannical despot who ranted and raved, belittled Dave Winfield and other members of the organization, phoned the Yankee dugout and hired and fired Billy Martin five times.

George seemed to mellow in his later years as he built the Yankee brand. A softer side of George emerged, a kinder, gentler George, a benevolent George who not only treated his players and managers with respect, but also honored the military and police officers and helped charities, schools and individuals in need.

And in the end, the Yankees won 11 pennants and seven World Championships in the Steinbrenner regime, and had the best record in baseball during that 37-year span.

“I care about New York dearly,” George told Sports Illustrated several years ago. “I like every cab driver, every guy that stops the car and honks, every truck driver. I feed on that.”

The Boss bought the Yankees for $8.7 million in 1973 — the team is now worth more than a $1.6 billion according to a recent report in Forbes magazine. Not a bad investment, by George.

Sadly, George Steinbrenner was not selected for the Hall of Fame before his passing. Perhaps the Hall can do him right now, and open its doors for George Steinbrenner.

Related Blog: Former Yankee Owner Jacob Ruppert Belongs in The Hall


The Ins and Outs of Baseball’s Hall of Fame

Despite a 266-251 lifetime record, Eppa Rixey is in the Hall of Fame.

Who’s in? Who’s out?

The question of who belongs in the Hall of Fame — and consequently who doesn’t — sparks endless debate among baseball fans.

Well, the SportsLifer is about to solve some of those debates.

At each position, we’ve taken one Hall of Famer (OUT) and replaced him with a player more deserving of Hall enshrinement (IN).

For pitchers, we’ve put five hurlers in and taken five out.

Omit the debates about Shoeless Joe Jackson and the Black Sox, gamblers like Pete Rose, and Mark McGwire and his fellow needle-pushers of the steroid generation. They’re out.

Also out are active players and players who have retired within the past five years and are not yet eligible for the Hall.

Who’s in? Who’s out? Here’s the list:

CATCHER

 IN — Joe Torre — A .297 lifetime batting average, 252 home runs, and a National League MVP and batting title in 1971 with the Cardinals are good enough. Torre, right, will eventually go in as a manager..

OUT — Ray Schalk — The ancient catcher played 17 years with the White Sox, but a .253 lifetime average, 11 home runs and 594 RBIs have Schalk on the outside.

FIRST BASE

IN — Buck O’Neil — A first baseman and manager in the Negro Leagues, most notably with the Kansas City Monarchs, he later became the first black coach in the majors.

OUT — George Kelly — Despite six straight .300 seasons and four straight 100 RBI years, Highpockets, who had a nice career with the Giants and three other teams, gets the boot.

SECOND BASE

IN — Lou Whitaker — A mainstay with the Detroit Tigers for 19 seasons, Sweet Lou hit .276 with 244 homer runs and 1084 RBIs, He was Rookie of the Year in 1978.

OUT — Bill Mazeroski — The Pirates second baseman is best known for his dramatic home run that decided the 1960 World Series. Maz hit .260 lifetime with 138 homers.

SHORTSTOP

IN — Bill Dahlen — His 20-year career spanned the 19th and 20th Centuries, and Bad Bill, left, hit.272 with 2457 hits and 547 stolen bases.

OUT — Joe Tinker — The Cubs shortstop of the Tinkers to Evers to Chance trio, his .262 lifetime average doesn’t cut it with this group.

THIRD BASE

IN — Ron Santo — This legendary Cubs third sacker had 342 home runs, 1331 RBIs and a .277 average, with five Gold Gloves and nine All-Star appearances.

OUT — George Kell — Perhaps the toughest cut, with only 10 3B in the Hall. Kell hit .306 lifetime and won a batting title in 1949, but was never much of a power hitter..

OUTFIELD

IN — Andre Dawson — Made his fame with the Expos and Cubs, hit 438 lifetime home runs, had 1591 RBIs, and was the 1987 National League MVP.

IN — Sherry Magee — A Phillie, Brave and Red from 1904-19, he led the league in RBIs four times and hit .291 lifetime, including a league-leading .331 in 1910.

IN — Tim Raines — A .294 lifetime hitter, Raines is fifth all-time in stolen bases with 808. The four players ahead of him, are all in the Hall of Fame.

OUT — Richie Ashburn — Hit .308 lifetime with a couple of batting titles, but only 29 career homers and 586 RBIs put Ashburn, right, on the pine.

OUT — Harry Hooper — Played with Red Sox and White Sox from 1909-25. Hooper played on four champions but hit just .281 in his career.

OUT — Ralph Kiner — This vaunted Pirates slugger won seven home run titles, but hit .just 279 in a brief 10-year, major league career.

PITCHER

IN — Ron Guidry — Louisiana Lightning fashioned a 170-91 record and a 3.29 ERA, and went 25-3 in 1978 while winning the Cy Young award with the Yankees.

IN — Tommy John — Anyone who has a surgery named after him is automatically eligible. John was a three-time, 20-game winner and had 288 career wins.

IN — Jim Kaat — Kitty played for 25 years, won 16 consecutive Gold Gloves, and was 283-237 while winning 20 games three times in his career.

IN — Firpo Marberry — Lost in the haze of history, Marberry was 148-88 lifetime, primarily with the Senators, and with 101 saves was the career leader from 1926-46.

IN — Tony Mullane — He had five straight 30-win campaigns on his way to 284 victories in the late 19th Century, mainly with the Cincinnati Red Stockings.

OUT — Jack Chesbro — This right-hander, with 198 career wins, made the Hall primarily on one great season, 41 wins for the New York Highlanders in 1904.

OUT — Ted Lyons — Just because Lyons, left,  pitched for some mediocre White Sox teams his entire career doesn’t mean 260-230, 3.67 ERA all-time deserves the Hall.

OUT — Gaylord Perry — Granted, Gaylord was a 300-game winner and a Cy Young pitcher, but the spitballer lost 265…and he was an admitted cheater.

OUT — Robin Roberts — He won 20 games six straight seasons and 286 in his career, but no pitcher in history allowed more home runs (505) than Rockin’ Robin.

OUT — Eppa Rixey — Those who never saw him pitch wonder how this Phillies and Reds left-hander made the grade with a record just 15 games better than .500.

Related Links

The Fabulous Firpo: Baseball’s First Fireman

The Rock Should Be A Lock for Baseball’s Hall of Fame

Guidry Vs. Koufax: A Hall of A Compare


“The Yankee Years” Explains Rise and Fall

After winning four World Series in five years between 1996 to 2000, the Yankees and their fans expect to win the Series every year.

After reading “The Yankee Years” by Joe Torre and Tom Verducci, it’s a wonder they even made the playoffs with some of the flawed teams they’ve fielded since 2002..

Joe Torre’s reign in the Bronx is easily pared into two distinct eras — the first six years, where the Yankees won four World Series and lost the seventh game of another, and the second six years, where in spite of making the playoffs every year, the team won a single American League pennant and no championships.

In those first six years, Torre went from being “Clueless Joe” to one of the most popular managers in New York history. Until he came to the Yankees, Torre had never been to a World Series as a player or a manager. His first Yankee team won the World Series in 1996, breaking an 18-year drought for the Bombers. He then won three World Series in a row from 1998 through 2000, before losing a heartbreaker to Arizona in 2001.

Those Yankee teams had talent for sure, but they weren’t overloaded with superstars. Like Derek Jeter, Bernie Williams, Mariano Rivera, David Cone and others, Paul O’Neill epitomized the grit and will to win of those championship squads.

‘Passion for Success’
“He wanted to get his hits, but his hits were important to him because of the success of the team.” is how Torre described O’Neill in “The Yankee Years. ” There are a lot of guys who want a hit every at-bat, but this guy, it was more about not letting the other 24 guys down. If he didn’t do enough to help the team win the game, he felt like he let everyone down. And I think people fed off that, that his passion for success and how that translated to the team’s success was what was important to him.”

As the Yankees entered the second six years, the back nine of the Torre era, things suddenly changed. The Yankees stopped winning the big games. They dropped a World Series to an overmatched Florida team in 2003, then blew a 3-0 lead to the Red Sox in the 2004 ALCS. In Torre’s last three years, the Yanks had to battle to make the playoffs — and each year lost in the first round.

In 2004, the Yankees signed Alex Rodriguez to the biggest contract in baseball history. The attitude of the team changed beyond the band-of-brothers mentality of the championship clubs. Roles were reversed. The Yankees under Torre would never be the same.

“When Alex came over it became strained in the clubhouse,” said Torre in “The Yankee Years.” “I can’t tell your for sure who you can put a finger on there, or if it was just one of those things that was pretty much unavoidable with the strong personalities.”

Failing in the Clutch
Most alarming of all was A-Rod’s lack of production in the clutch, and in the post-season in particular.

“When it comes to a key situation,” said Torre, “he can’t get himself to concern himself with getting the job done, instead of how it looks…..There’s a sort of trust, a trust and commitment thing that has to allow yourself to fail. Allow yourself to be embarrassed. Allow yourself to be vulnerable. And sometimes players aren’t willing to do that. They have a reputation to uphold. They have to have answer for it. It’s an ego thing.”

Even though he’s the lightning rod, it’s unfair to pin all the blame on Rodriguez. There’s also the issue of front office judgement, of over-paying for pitchers who didn’t get the job done in pinstripes.

Beginning in 2003, the Yankees brought in 12 pitchers from outside the organization….none of who pitched three straight years with the Yankees. The dirty dozen — Kevin Brown, Randy Johnson, Jaret Wright, Jeff Weaver, Steve Karsay, Esteban Loaiza, Kyle Farnsworth, Jose Contreras, Javier Vazquez, Kei Igawa, Carl Pavano, Roger Clemens (the older version) — combined for a 125-105 record, 3-7 in the post-season. The cost per win was $2.04 million if you do the math. That pretty much sums it up.

Whether you love the Yankees or hate ’em, “The Yankee Years” is a must read for all baseball fans