Matty and The Jinx–a rainy night in New York

IMG_2145When I go to games with my long-time friend and high school buddy Matty, bad things happen to our teams. Incredibly bad things. We affectionately refer to it as The Jinx.

The Jinx spans sports and the ages. We’ve seen the Giants crushed in the Super Bowl, the Yankees  blanked in both games of a doubleheader, the Knicks lose buzzer-beaters. And so much more. We’re afraid to speak on the phone when the Yankees or Giants are playing for fear of jinxing them.

But The Jinx may have reached a new high…or low depending upon your point of view…..on a rainy   Friday night in July in New York.

The evening started out in fine fashion when. Matty nabbed box seats, right behind home plate, for Yankees-Royals at the Stadium. But it rained the whole time we were there, the tarp was never taken off, and finally the game was postponed. Bummer.

So now Matt and I are on a crowded subway heading back downtown. We pull into the Fulton Street station, I reach into my pocket….and realize to my horror my cell phone is gone.

Matty quickly calls my number and to my amazement a guy named Zack answers. Sure I’ve got your phone he said, I found it sitting on a bench at the 149th Street Station in the Bronx.

Shortly after we’re turned around, going back uptown to meet Zack, who’s at 75th and Amsterdam. My man Zack answers the door with a Yankee cap (he too had been at the game), and handed over my iPhone. He refused a monetary reward but did accept the gift of a CC Sabathia bobblehead doll.

Zach if you’re reading this you are my hero. And while calculating the odds of recovering a phone left in a South Bronx subway, I will pass it along.

The story doesn’t end there. As soon as we left Zack’s place a monsoon hit Manhattan. No shelter from the storm. We got drenched.

Finally we find the subway and head back downtown to the Oculus Station at the World Trade Center to take the Path train under the river to Newark. We make our connections, and then rush to make  the Jersey transit train for the last leg of our journey back to Fanwood.

We’re just about 10 minutes into the 30-minute ride when the train comes to a stop at the Union Station Keane University stop. A half hour later we’re informed that a vehicle hit a bridge up ahead of us, and that we can’t move until the bridge passes inspection.

Well finally, about an hour and a half later, we’re cleared to go and make our way home.

The Jinx. You can’t make this stuff up.

Matty and the Jinx – the original top 10 list.


Forecast always cloudy when Sonny pitches

97058946GM Brian Cashman has made many shrewd moves the past several years in making the Yankees a contender once again. The acquisition of Sonny Gray isn’t one of them.

Cashman dealt three prospects – James Kaprielian, Jorge Mateo and Dustin Fowler —  to the Oakland A’s for Gray before the trade deadline last July. At the time, most thought the Yankees were getting a solid, young No. 2 starter.

Instead, Sonny has evoked nightmare visions of guys like Ed Whitson, Carl Pavano, Kei Igawa, Javier Vasquez and Kevin Brown, all of whom flopped in pinstripes.

Facing the Red Sox on the last day of June, Gray crumbled in the first inning. After retiring the first two batters, Gray loaded the bases and then surrendered a grand slam to Rafael Devers. He couldn’t get off the mound fast enough midway through the third inning, trailing 6-0 with boos cascading down from irate Yankee fans..

“That was embarrassing for me and for everybody in here,” Gray said in the home clubhouse after the 11-0 loss. “If I was out there, I probably would’ve booed me louder.”

Statistics tell the story, and it’s not good one. In fact, Gray’s performance as a Yankee has been historically bad. All Yankee pitchers are expected to pitch well at home….and show a propensity for beating the Red Sox. Gary has done neither.

Since coming to the Bronx, Gray has a 4-6 record and a 7.10 ERA, highest of any Yankee pitcher in history who has started at least eight games at Yankee Stadium.

This year, Sonny has an 8.25 ERA in eight home starts, the worst in Yankees history. Pavano was the previous leader in this dubious category with a 6.89 ERA.

Against Boston, the Yankees have lost all four of Gray’s starts in the past two seasons. His ERA against the Red Sox is 9.35, better only than Jose Contreras (16.43) and Andy Hawkins (14.44).

In eight career starts against the Red Sox overall, including his lone win while a member of the A’s, Gray is 1-6 with a 6.98 ERA.

“I mean, I haven’t beaten a lot of teams since I’ve been here. I’ve been bad against the Red Sox. I’ve been bad against a lot of teams,” Gray said. “So I don’t think you can say one particular team has my number. I’ve been bad against multiple teams.”

At least you got something right, Sonny.


Potent pinstripe pair powers talk of HR peaks

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Adding National League MVP Giancarlo Stanton to a powerful lineup that already includes American League Rookie of the Year Aaron Judge has baseball fans, Yankee fans, dreaming of record home run harvests in 2018.

Stanton, who led the majors in homers last year with 59, is one of the few home run champions to be traded, part of a short list that includes Babe Ruth and Alex Rodriguez. And Judge with 52 homers broke Mark McGwire’s rookie record of 49, established in 1987.

The only time teammates each hit 50 homers in a season was 1961, when Roger Maris (61) and Mickey Mantle (54) hammered their way to the record with 115 total home runs.

Stanton and Judge pose a threat to both of those records. If they had played on the same team last year, their 111 combined home runs would have been second on the all-time list.

The rest of the top five home runs by teammates features:

110 – Barry Bonds (73) and Rich Aurilia (37), 2001 Giants

107 – Babe Ruth (60) and Lou Gehrig (47), 1927 Yankees

101 – Mark McGwire (70) and Ray Lankford (31), 1998 Cardinals

100 – Alex Rodriguez (57) and Rafael Palmeiro (43, 2001 Rangers


10 games the Yankees will regret

yankeeslose_400x400As the Yankees continue their thus far futile chase to catch the Red Sox, win the American League East and avoid the dreaded one-game, wild card playoff, they are looking back at 10 games they should have won.

1. April 7 – Orioles 6, Yankees 5: The Yankees begin a trend that will hurt them all season, taking an early lead only to fritter it away and lose. In this case the Yanks, leading 5-1 in the fifth, lose 6-5.

2. June 13 – Angels 3, Yankees 2, (11): Tyler Clippard surrenders the tying run on an Eric Young home run in the eighth; New York loses 3-2 in 11.

3. June 15 – A’s 8, Yankees 7 (10): Kicking off a disastrous weekend in Oakland, the Yanks tie the game in the ninth and take a 7-6 lead in the 10th. With two outs, Khris Davis bloops a single just off Starlin Castro’s glove to score the tying and winning runs. The A’s sweep the four-game series.

4. June 27 – White Sox 4, Yankees 3: Jose Abreu singles in the tying and winning runs with two outs in the ninth off Dellin Betances as Chicago counters a Yankee rally for a 4-3 win.

5. July 1 – Astros 7, Yankees 6: A grand slam by DiDi Gregorius in the sixth helps stake the Yanks to a 6-3 lead. However Houston rallies against Betances and Aroldis Chapman in the eighth to win.

6. July 14 – Red Sox 5, Yankees 4: At Fenway Park, the Red Sox score the tying and winning runs against Chapman in the ninth without hitting the ball out of the infield. Boston ties the score on a Castro error, then wins on a walk-off walk to Andrew Benintendi.

7. August 13 – Red Sox 3, Yankees 2 (10): Rafael Devers shocks the Yankee Stadium crowd with a home run against Chapman in the ninth before Benintendi singles in the winning run in the 10th.

8. August 18 – Red Sox 9, Yankees 6: Trailing 3-0 the Bombers take a 6-3 lead in the seventh. But Boston rallies with four runs in the bottom of the seventh against Chad Green and Tommy Kahnle and add two more in the eighth to win 9-6.

9. September 5 – Orioles 7, Yankees 6: The Yankees score six runs in the third for a 6-1 lead, and take a 6-5 lead into the ninth. However with outs and nobody on base, Betances walks Tim Beckham and then yields a walk-off homer to Manny Machado.

10. September 8 – Rangers 11, Yankees 5: The Yankees give Masahiro Tanaka a 5-1 lead, but he gives it all up and more as Texas goes on to win 11-5.


My favorite Yankees — 25-man roster

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Graig Nettles and Goose Gossage (54) celebrate playoff win over Red Sox in 1978 at Fenway.

I’ve been watching Yankee baseball since I was a kid. My earliest memories go back to the 1957 World Series, when the Yankees lost to the Milwaukee Braves in seven games.

I always wanted to pull together a 25-man team of my favorite Yankees. Not necessarily the best, but the Yankees I liked the most.

You’ll note Ruth, Gehrig and DiMaggio are missing; that’s because I never saw them play. And there are no current Yankees on this team, they’re for future consideration.

Here are the starters and reserve, including seven starting pitchers and three relievers.

REGULARS

CYogi Berra – Got rings? Yogi has 10, most of any player in history.

1B – Don Mattingly – Hit a record 6 grand slams in 1987, the only grand slams of his career.

2B – Willie Randolph – Quiet leader, member of the 1977 and 1978 World Champions.

3B – Graig Nettles – His play at the hot corner was a turning point in the 1978 World Series. 

SS – Derek Jeter – The Captain is #6 on the all-time hit list with 3465.

OF – Mickey Mantle – The switch-hitter, #7, hit some of the longest HRs in MLB history.

OF – Bernie Williams – Another in a long line of great Yankee center fielders.

OFBobby Murcer – He wasn’t the next Mantle, but he was damn good.

PITCHERS

P – Whitey Ford – All-time Yankee leader with 236 wins and a .690 wining percentage.

P – Mel Stottlemyre – Arrived at the end of a dynasty, had 40 career shutouts.

P – Ron Guidry – Enjoyed one of the great seasons ever in 1978, 25-3 with a 1.78 ERA.

P – David Cone – Helped put the Yankees over the top in 1996, was perfect in 1999.

PAndy Pettitte – Clutch lefty, his 19 post-season wins are the most by any pitcher.

RPMariano Rivera – Simply the greatest closer in history with 652 saves.

RPGoose Gossage – Fearsome bullpen presence, saw his Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

RESERVES

C Thurman Munson – Hit safely in 28 of 30 post-season games, died in a plane crash in 1979.

1B – Bill Skowron – The Moose hit a home run in my first game at Yankee Stadium

IF – Bobby Richardson – Only World Series MVP on a losing team, 1960 vs. Pittsburgh.

IF – Gil McDougald – Utility man, Rookie of the Year in 1951, later coached baseball at Fordham.

OF – Roger Maris – Still holds the American League single season HR record with 61 in 1961.

OF – Reggie Jackson – Mr. October, hit three HRs vs Dodgers in 1977 World Series clincher.

OF – Paul O’Neill – The Warrior, a mainstay of Yankee championship teams in 1996, 199-2000.

P – Jim “Catfish” Hunter – George’s first big free agent signing, won 23 games in 1975.

P – David Wells – Saw him pitch a perfect game in 1998 against the Twins.

RP – Sparky Lyle – Stolen from the Red Sox, provided pomp and circumstance out of the bullpen.

NEXT CALL-UPS

1B Chris Chambliss; 3B Clete Boyer; OF Lou Piniella; OF Roy White; P Orlando Hernandez; P Jim Bouton


‘Casey Stengel: Baseball’s Greatest Character’ is latest must-read from author Marty Appel

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Marty Appel has hit another home run with his latest undertaking “Casey Stengel: Baseball’s Greatest Character.” Appel, whose credits include “Munson” and “Pinstripe Empire,” the definitive history of the New York Yankees, digs deep into Casey Stengel’s life and uncovers multiple aspects of a life in baseball that spanned more than 50 years.

In 2009, MLB Network ran a series that highlighted many areas of the game. Stengel finished first in a category called “Characters of the Game.” He beat out luminaries such as Yogi Berra, Babe Ruth, Dizzy Dean, Leo Durocher and Satchel Paige.

Upon Casey’s death in 1975, Richie Ashburn, who played for Stengel with the original Mets, said: “He was the happiest man I’ve ever seen.”

Casey loved the writers who covered his teams – ‘my writers’ he would call them. He was a showboat and a rabble-rouser who wasn’t afraid to mix it up in a fight. He was a .284 hitter as a player, and managed the Dodgers, Braves, Yankees and Mets, achieving his greatest fame with the Yankees who won five straight World Championships between 1949 and 1953.

Here are 10 amazing factoids and associated Stengelese witticisms found in Casey’s bio:

1. Casey hit the first home run in Ebbets Field when the Brooklyn Superbas (soon to be called Dodgers) christened their new park with an exhibition game against the Yankees before the 1913 Series. Generous scoring ruled Stengel’s inside-the-park blast a home run.

2. A decade later, in 1923 Stengel hit the first World Series home run in the history of Yankee Stadium. This was also an inside-the-parker, and gave the New York Giants a 5-4 win over the Yankees. Stengel also homered in Game 3, and this blast into the right field seats gave the Giants a 1-0 win.

3. In 1933, Casey served as a pall bearer at the funeral of legendary Giants manager John McGraw. Other pall bearers that day included George M. Cohan, DeWolf Hopper (who wrote ‘Casey at the Bat’’), Yankee owner Jacob Ruppert, Dodgers manager Wilbert Robinson, Will Rogers, and football Giants owner Tim Mara.

4. One year, Stengel managed the Boston Braves to a sixth place finish, coming on the heels of four seventh place finishes. Early in the 1943 season Casey was hit by a taxi cab in Kenmore Square and broke his left leg. Acerbic Boston Record columnist Dave ‘The Colonel’ Egan wrote that “the taxi driver who knocked Stengel down and put him out of commission until July” should be voted the man who did the most for Boston baseball in 1943.

5. Before the first game of the 1952 World Series, Stengel, then manager of the Yankees, took Mickey Mantle out to right field in Ebbets Field to give him a tutorial on the angles of the concrete wall. Mantle looked at Casey as though he was screwy. “Guess he thinks I was born at age 50 and started managing immediately,” said Stengel.

6. “The secret of managing is to keep the five guys who hate you caseyaway from the guys who are undecided.” – Casey Stengel

7. After guiding the Yankees to 10 American League pennants in 12 years, Stengel was let go by the team after losing to the Pirates in a thrilling seven-game World Series in 1960. “I’ll never make the mistake of being 70 again,” Casey said.

8. In 1962, Casey took over the reigns of the expansionist New York Mets. The Mets were lovable losers (they lost 120 games in the inaugural season), but Stengel quickly made them popular. Take for instance Marvin Eugene Throneberry (whose initials were MET). In the first inning of a June game against the Cubs, Marvelous Marv steamed into third base with a triple. However he was called out when the umpire ruled he missed second base. When Casey came out to argue, the ump, Dusty Boggess, said, “Don’t bother Casey, he missed first base too.”

9. Casey invented his own form of speaking, called Stengelese. One of his favorite sayings was “Most people my age are dead at the present time.”

10. Just days before he passed away in the hospital at the age of 85, Casey decided to rise from his hand, stand barefoot in his hospital gown, and put his hand over his heart as the national anthem was played. Near his gravesite is a plaque that reads: “There comes a time in every man’s life and I’ve had plenty of them.”


Here’s the catch: Sanchez is top AL rookie

Should Gary Sanchez, stalwart Yankees catcher, be American League Rookie of the Year?

Why not? In less than two months, Sanchez has already hit 19 home runs (fastest player ever to reach that number), to go along with 38 RBIs and a .337 batting average. He was named AL Player of the Month in August, when he also won consecutive Player of the Week honors.

And equipped with a strong throwing arm and pitch-calling capabilities, his defense is every bit as good as his offense.

If Sanchez plays in the rest of the Yankees games this year, he will wind up with 54….which is exactly one third of a season.

And despite limited duty, Sanchez numbers stack up well against Tigers pitcher Michael Fulmer (10-7, 3:30 ERA), who has dropped four of his last five decisions. Others in the rookie mix include Indians outfielder Tyler Naquin (14-42-.3010, Rangers outfielder Nomar Mazaro (20-64-.275) and Twins outfielder Max Kepler (16-60-.232).

There is precedent for winning the Rookie of the Year award while playing less than 100 games. Just last year, Houston’s Carlos Correa appeared in 99 games. Will Myers (88 games in 2013), Ryan Howard (88 games in 2005) and Bob Horner (89 games in 1978) were all named top rookie.

Hall of Famer Willie McCovey played only 52 games for the Giants in 1959, yet was named NL Rookie of the Year. Stretch — who broke in on July 30 that year with a pair of triples in a 4-for-4 day against the Phillies — hit .354 with 13 HRs and 38 RBIs. McCovey earned all 24 votes for Rookie of the Year.

Some might argue that Cincinnati’s Vada Pinson, who had 20 homers, 84 RBIs and a .316 batting average, was the most deserving NL Rookie of the Year candidate in 1959. Pinson led the league in runs (131), doubles (47) and outfield putouts (423), earning him 11 MVP votes. However he failed to qualify for the Rookie of the Year award because his 96 at bats in 1958 were just beyond the 90 cutoff.

Bob Gibson of St. Louis made his MLB debut in 1959, although he won just three of eight games. Other notable NL rookies in 1959 were future Hall of Fame manager Sparky Anderson, who hit .218 in his only season with the Phillies, and speedster Maury Wills, who would later go on to break the single season stolen base record with the Dodgers.